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Del Mar woman honored for decades of work in community

Rosanne Holliday
Rosanne Holliday
( / Courtesy)

Having championed women and children’s causes for decades, it’s no surprise that Del Mar’s Rosanne Holliday was recently honored during Women’s History Month.

Acknowledging her impact on the community, California Assembly Speaker Emeritus Toni Atkins recognized Holliday as one of the 78th Assembly District’s 2016 “Woman of the Year” honorees during a March 18 awards ceremony in San Diego.

“I was certainly surprised and shocked,” Holliday said. “I’m very honored.”

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A Del Mar resident for more than 40 years, Holliday has devoted her time and talents to Planned Parenthood for just as long. Early childhood development and reproductive health have long been important issues to Holliday, a professor emerita from Southwestern College.

“Planned Parenthood encompasses that,” Holliday said. “They want women to plan their pregnancies so that the baby’s as healthy as it can be.”

Holliday received a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in psychology at Scripps College, a liberal arts women’s college in Claremont. She went on to earn her master’s in child development and family studies at Mills College in Oakland and her teaching credential at San Jose State University.

Holliday’s career and volunteer-related efforts have always reflected her devotion to women and children.

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After college, she served as director of Judge Baker Child Guidance Center, a therapeutic nursery school she helped start in Boston in the early 1960s. She then became a teacher and lecturer at Tufts University’s Eliot-Pearson Child Study Center.

In 1966, Holliday returned to the West Coast with her husband, Joel Holliday, where she worked as a training consultant for Head Start in Los Angeles County.

When the couple moved to La Jolla with their then-8-month-old son, William, in 1968, Holliday established a nursery school at Children’s Hospital of San Diego, now called Rady Children’s Hospital.

Holliday also started teaching at Grossmont College and Southwestern College. Both community colleges offered her positions, but she ultimately selected Southwestern College.

“I loved it because it had such a diverse population,” said Holliday, who started at Southwestern College in 1970. “It was a lot more interesting.”

While at Southwestern, Holliday invited representatives from Planned Parenthood to speak to students in her child development classes.

“They were real good at it,” she said. “They had all the charts and things that I didn’t have access to.”

When she suspected she was pregnant with her second baby in 1973, she stopped by one of Planned Parenthood’s clinics for a test on her way home from work.

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“I was so excited when Planned Parenthood called to say the test was positive,” Holliday recalled. “The woman on the phone said, ‘Do you know what positive means?’ I realized that she was used to giving bad news.”

After she gave birth to her daughter Katherine, Holliday continued to work at Southwestern College. “I loved my job so much, so I continued teaching,” she said. “I figured I could do that.”

By 1973, the Holliday family had moved to Del Mar. Holliday had to drive to the Chula Vista campus, where she worked about 20 hours a week, often with two to three hours between classes. As a working and nursing mother, she brought Katherine and her babysitter to work so that she could nurse and spend time with her daughter during her breaks.

But before long, the president of the college confronted her about the situation.

The College Board of Trustees passed a policy on April 1, 1974, that no employee could have a minor child on campus while they were on duty, even if the child was in the care of another adult. Media across the country covered the story, including the New York Times.

“I kind of became a cause and I really didn’t want to,” Holliday said.

Holliday eventually presented her case before the state board, which determined that Katherine’s presence on campus had not affected her teaching. However, the policy, stayed in place.

“It was ruled that I was professional, but the policy remained,” she recalled. “By that time, I wasn’t taking Katherine with me anymore because she was a year old.

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“I learned a lot,” Holliday added. “I really understood sexism, which I don’t think I did before.”

She remembered that men on the board had suggested taking a leave of absence like their wives had done when they had children. But at that time, she would not have been paid, and she had already taken 10 sick days.

Plus, she wanted to work.

“That was the time when people were thinking women shouldn’t work and have a baby; you had to make a choice,” Holliday said. “When my son was born, I did quit work, and I missed it. I always worked.”

At 14, Holliday worked as a locker girl at the local swimming pool, making 35 cents an hour. In high school, she started in giftwrapping at a department store and worked her way up to assistant to the manager.

Still, Holliday continued to teach at Southwestern College for the next 24 years, until she retired.

Along with building Southwestern’s child development program, Holliday founded the school’s first day care center for children of students and faculty.

“I pushed and we started a child development center because a lot of women were going back to school in the ’70s,” she said. “I was so proud.”

While still a professor, Holliday also became heavily involved with Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. In 1980, she began serving on the organization’s board of directors, becoming president in 1986.

Some of the board decisions that were made during that time directly impacted the long-term direction of the chapter. One of those decisions was to provide abortions, which was a unanimous decision with one abstention.

“I still remember that meeting,” she said. “It was an important decision.”

During her tenure, Holliday established the chapter’s annual dinner and international affairs committees. She decided to collaborate with MexFam, the Mexican national family planning organization.

After retiring in 1998, Holliday dedicated even more time to Planned Parenthood.

She was invited to serve on the board a second time from 2001 to 2007. During that time, she chaired the “Caring For the Future” capital campaign, and her family made a major gift to kick it off. Subsequently, the Planned Parenthood Holliday Family Administration Building in Mission Valley was named in their honor.

By the time the campaign concluded in 2006, more than $16 million was raised. The chapter established and renovated 14 medical centers, and therefore, doubled the number of patients served.

Today, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest has 19 health centers and serves San Diego, Riverside and Imperial counties.

“It’s wonderful to see those changes,” said Holliday, who remains an active volunteer on the philanthropy committee. “It’s one of the nice things about getting older. You get to see progress.”

An active member of Del Mar, Holliday also serves on the board and chairs the development committee of Del Mar Community Connections. She is also a founding member of the Del Mar Garden Club and previously chaired the board of the Del Mar Foundation.

“Del Mar’s really small,” said Holliday, a grandmother of three. “When you live in Del Mar, it’s a full-time job.”

Additionally, Holliday is a founding member of The San Diego Women’s Foundation and Women Give San Diego. She previously served on the board of trustees at Scripps College.

Holliday also currently serves as president of the Holliday Family Foundation. Founded in 1999, the family foundation supports a number of organizations, including Planned Parenthood and La Jolla Playhouse.

“This is what you do.” Holliday said. “You work to make things better. It’s just what people do.”


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