Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

Redlands to present honorary degree to business leader and prominent champion of education

During the University of Redlands School of Education Commencement ceremony on Friday, April 21, 2023, President Krista L. Newkirk will confer an honorary Doctor of Education degree to champion of education, animatronics prodigy, and magic-maker Garner L. Holt.

The honorary Doctor of Education will recognize Holt’s dedication to education and his efforts to identify and support the needs of students to prepare them for success.

“Garner Holt is a true visionary, advancing the field of animatronics for entertainment, shopping and dining, museums, and many other venues to new heights,” said University of Redlands President, Krista L. Newkirk. “The time he invests in creating new and innovative programming for students, coupled with his generous philanthropic support of education makes him an ideal candidate for this honor.”

Holt, a San Bernardino native, is well known as the founder of the world’s largest animatronics company, Garner Holt Productions, Inc. (GHP) located in Redlands, which he started in his parents’ garage while in high school. GHP’s “mechanized magic” animatronics can be found at Disney and Universal Studios parks around the world. GHP animatronics are also found at parks and attractions for clients including Knott’s Berry Farm, Warner Bros., Nike, Coca-Cola, Salesforce, Lockheed-Martin, Legoland, Hershey, and the Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands.

“From the very beginning of my company, I gave tours of my production shop to anyone who asked,” said Holt. “Grown-ups loved it, but kids seemed to be especially transfixed. I knew we had the power to change the course of their lives through inspiring them with creativity and showing them it was something they could learn to do themselves.”

Also well known as a champion of education, Holt was inspired through his work at GHP to establish Garner Holt Education through Imagination, LLC, a unique new company with a team of educators and industry professionals who create educational environments and programs that provide students with a solid foundation in creativity, innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship aimed at the goal of preparing students to be college and/or career ready in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

The work in GHP’s education division has resulted in digital and physical maker camps for K-12 students and the creation of animation maker spaces – AniMakerspaces – in Redlands Unified School District K-12 schools, among others in California and across the nation. Most recently, they partnered with U of R’s Information Technology Services to create the first version of a higher education AniMakerspace on the University’s Redlands campus.

This project, underwritten by a grant from the Fletcher Jones Foundation, provides opportunities for U of R students, faculty, staff, and community members to learn about and use 3D printing and modeling, advanced fabrication technology, and programmable animatronics to enhance experiential learning.

In addition to Holt’s work with his for-profit companies, in 2020 he launched the Garner Holt Foundation, a 501(C)(3) charitable organization. Complementing the work of GHP’s education division, the Garner Holt Foundation provides learning opportunities, events, and scholarships for students — particularly from low-income or at-risk backgrounds — to pursue career paths within the manual and related arts.