Johnny Holden Given Distinguished Entrepreneurship Award

“Don’t just learn, experience. Don’t just read, absorb. Don’t just change, transform. Don’t just relate, advocate. Don’t just promise, prove. Don’t just criticize, encourage. Don’t just think, ponder. Don’t just take, give. Don’t just see, feel. Don’t just dream, do it. Don’t just hear, listen. Don’t just talk, act. Don’t just tell, show. Don’t just exist, live.”


Mr. Johnny Holden admonished the students and audience in attendance with the words of wisdom from Roy T. Bennett, which concluded his acceptance of the Distinguished Entrepreneurship Award, Thursday, at the Johnson Event Center at Tennessee Wesleyan University.


Holden, a veteran of more than 50 years in the finance industry, was given the Distinguished Entrepreneurship Award by the TWU Goodfriend School of Business. He is the sixth recipient of the Award, joining fellow businesspeople and friends of Tennessee Wesleyan like Dr. Bob Goodfriend, Claire Tucker, and more.


“We do things right and proper,” said Holden of his philosophy of work and life. “It’s a simple statement, but these words were the foundation of customer service and our business policy at Pioneer Credit, as well as words that have guided me in my life.”

Holden’s career began with a 14-year tenure at American Credit Corporation, reaching the role of Senior Vice President before branching off to start Pioneer Credit Company. Holden served Pioneer for 40 years as President, CEO and Chairman of the Board.


He took the opportunity throughout his acceptance of the award to encourage students in attendance the importance of persistence and hard work.

“There are not any Johnny-come-lately’s in business,” Holden directed his statement to a group of TWU business students. “You have to pay your dues if you want to be successful and get to where you want to be.”


“College prepared me in many ways, but what made it all work together was experience out there on the firing line. Experience is a great teacher, but you have to have the background that y’all are getting now to be able to go from here. It’s most important that you do well here.”


Following the merging of Pioneer Credit with Mariner Finance in 2014, Holden has served as Chairman of the Board and Executive Consultant for the company, in addition to numerous leadership positions with the American Financial Services Association, Tennessee Consumer Finance Association, and more.


Holden also served the board of the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland, Tennessee for 45 years, playing a major role in the growth of the program. In his time with the Boys and Girls Club, he was instrumental in driving capital campaigns, with particular skill in obtaining grant monies.


The fall of 2019 marked the addition of Holden to the TWU Board of Trustees, part of a group of five new Trustees.