Today we celebrate the life and legacy of Joan Holland, co-founder and the matriarch of M. Holland Company. Joan’s passing is a deep and immense loss for the Holland family — and one felt across the entire M. Holland family and broader plastics industry. While it is with great sadness that we mourn her passing, we also celebrate her life and the accomplishments and contributions that have shaped M. Holland Company and will continue to guide the company for years to come.
Decades before M. Holland Company became a globally recognized industry leader, Marvin and Joan Holland began laying the foundation for the business from their apartment in Chicago. A corner of their dining room doubled as M. Holland Company’s first headquarters and consisted of a typewriter, which they borrowed from Joan’s father’s office, sitting atop a card table gifted to them by Joan’s aunt for their wedding. They couldn’t have known then the kind of legacy they were building, one that would withstand an ever-evolving industry and remain a family business for 70 years.
Joan lived by three abiding principles: positivity, resilience and community. No matter what life threw her way, including the painful experiences of losing two children and two husbands, Joan remained a positive force. She would often say, “Choose to be happy. You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.” The importance Joan placed on family helped cultivate M. Holland Company’s nurturing, family-like culture. She wanted to ensure everyone felt respected, supported and as if they were part of the M. Holland family. Like her husband, Marvin, she wanted to create a company built on integrity that held people at the core of every decision.
One of Joan’s chief passions was philanthropy. She was the first female chairperson of the Israel Bonds U.S.A. – Chicago. She was also very active with several other institutions, including the Jewish United Fund and Solomon Schechter School. Joan would often open her home to numerous charitable and fundraising events, hosting four to eight events each year for organizations including ORT, Hadassah and the Jewish Children’s Bureau. The Holland family is still very involved with the Friends of the Refugees from Eastern Europe (FREE) program.
Even when she had very little, Joan believed we all have a responsibility to take care of each other. Born in 1929 in Chicago, Illinois, she was the only child of Edward Jerome Hyman and Dot Hyman, aka Grandma Dot. Despite growing up during the Great Depression, she made the most of her childhood and, throughout her life, held on to the idea that one should own their things, not be owned by them.
Joan met her future husband early on when she would carpool to school with her mother’s cousin and an older boy from the neighborhood — Marvin. Some days, Joan would fall asleep on Marvin’s shoulder in the car. When Marvin was 19 years old, he left to fight in World War II. Upon his return, he asked Joan out, and by their third date, they were engaged. Through the GI Bill, Marvin was able to attend DePaul University to study accounting. While he was in school, he worked at a local plastics injection molder to make extra money while Joan also worked and saved money. After Marvin completed his degree, the two were married. They used the $600 Joan saved to start M. Holland Company. Joan would handle the phones while Marvin managed operations — they were quite the team. Unfortunately, at the young age of 70, Marvin Holland passed, leaving Joan a widow, mother of five. Joan assumed the role of Chairperson of M. Holland and became a strong voice of the company and a driving force for all who heard her speak. She is survived by five children, nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
As a company, we will be forever grateful to Joan’s unwavering commitment and dedication to M. Holland. Her contributions will be forever entrenched in its legacy, and she will be greatly missed.