The Research Triangle Park

Leading North Carolina: Wayne Holden

By Jan 20, 2016

E. Wayne Holden realizes it takes teamwork to make the dream work.

The distinguished researcher and clinical psychologist has racked up numerous professional degrees and accolades, but the former basketball team captain’s most valuable contributions have come as a leader and collaborator.

In 2012 he became the fourth president and chief executive officer in the history of RTI International, founded as Research Triangle Institute.

RTI is a research institute dedicated to improving the human condition and the Park’s longest standing tenant. Wayne joined RTI as executive vice president of Social and Statistical Sciences in November 2005.

Wayne received a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of South Carolina Upstate in 1979 and a doctorate in clinical/community psychology from the University of South Carolina in 1985. He also participated in post graduate training in public health at the Johns Hopkins University.

Wayne, who stands 6 feet 8 inches tall, received a basketball scholarship to attend college. “I was a smart-jock who graduated with a 3.8 GPA.…I always tried to push ahead, do the right thing and be a good leader, important attributes instilled in me by my parents.” He grew up in a working class family with parents who had less than a high school education, but emphasized the importance of college educations for each of their four children.

This year, Wayne was recognized by the Triangle Global Health Consortium, a nonprofit organization representing companies and individuals in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. He received the consortium’s “Champion” award for his effort in improving the health of individuals in North Carolina and around the globe.

“Wayne Holden is a man with great stature, but not just because I always have to look up when I see him because he’s so tall,” says Wendee Wechsberg, director of substance abuse treatment evaluations and interventions at RTI International, “His commitment to global health and his commitment to bringing so many thought leaders together and making sure whatever is created and developed is sustained shows great leadership.”

Wayne’s wife was struck early on by his character. “His honesty and integrity top the list,” says his wife of 35 years Dale Holden. The two met in college. “He was a captain of the basketball team. I was on the dance team.”

“He hasn’t changed,” she says of her mate. But his jobs have. He’s worked as a camp counselor for emotionally disturbed children, a professor teaching at several universities and now as CEO of a global research firm.

He first became aware of RTP during his academic career and today continues his academic affiliations. He serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine and the Department of Health Policy and Management in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

During his career, Wayne has served as principal investigator or officer-in-charge for more than $100 million worth of research contracts and grants.

In 2014, Wayne was elected to the Research Triangle Foundation Board. Wayne and the RTI staff have been actively involved in the Park’s next steps in creating a dynamic community.

Many Park businesses like RTI “have a security gate out front” and are “self -contained entities” with their own cafeteria and fitness center. RTI sits on 180 acres in what was once considered as desired isolation. The feeling was that scientists and researchers worked better without distractions.

Now the thinking has shifted to more collaboration. Bob Geolas, CEO of RTP, wants to remove boundaries and limitations. He’s going for a convergence cluster, where knowledge workers have more spaces to come together and share ideas and innovation.

Leading the founding tenant of RTP automatically gives Wayne stature in the community as it plans for the future. “We were here from day one,” says Wayne who encourages his employees to participate in activities at the Frontier, one of the Park’s new meeting and networking spaces.

His commitment to ensuring that RTI has an important role in the RTP of tomorrow is testament to Wayne’s visionary leadership of the institute. “We have our people giving time, helping out with the strategic planning,” he affirms, “We want to be excellent role models.”

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