Holt still manning the point

University of Lethbridge alumnus Spencer Holt (BMgt '00) has an undergraduate degree, a master's degree, is currently pursuing a PhD and his career is flipping burgers. You might think all that education has gone to waste – hardly.

It's just the latest avenue that Holt is pursuing, as the point man for a team franchising Five Guys Burgers and Fries, a wildly successful restaurant chain that boasts 550 American locations and now one Canadian store in Medicine Hat.

"The group I'm with bought the rights to Alberta, B.C. and parts of Ontario," says Holt. "We just opened in Medicine Hat, and it's gone very well. Our goal is to do about 130 stores across the country, so for me it's a great opportunity because I'm in charge of the infrastructure of hiring people, training and so on. It blends very well into my educational background."

Holt is best known in these parts for his years manning the point guard spot on the Horns men's basketball team. A wizard with the ball, he was a high school star at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute before playing a season at Lethbridge College and then moving on to the U of L. Along with Magrath product Danny Balderson, the duo formed a local nucleus around which the program was constructed.

"A big part of that was the fact that Danny and I had been friends for many years," says Holt. "When we were both on our missions for the church, we talked quite a bit about playing together and at the U of L. We both had opportunities to go other places, but I think we had a vision of playing together in Lethbridge and winning a lot of games."

They did just that, culminating with the 1999-2000 season when the Horns spent much of the campaign as the top-rated team in the country, won the Canada West regular season title and advanced to the national semifinal game.

"That was such a fun season," says Holt. "I think we went 18-2, we won every tournament we entered, and more importantly, the guys on that team had been together for three or four years so, as a group, we all got along and really had a passion to work hard and win together."

He cherishes the fact that the team had such a strong southern Alberta flavour and remembers a unique bond the program had with the community.

"When you look back at old pictures of the stands, you see everyone you grew up with, and that's what was so cool about it, you knew who was in the crowd and that was part of the fun," says Holt. "That old gym only held a couple thousand people but it seemed like every night it was full and that really helps as a player, you feed off that energy and it gives you a lot of confidence."

The 1999-2000 team will be honoured at the Feb. 13 regular season finale at the 1st Choice Savings Centre gym. Holt likes the fact that the University is reaching out to its alumni.

"It's a great honour that they're choosing to recognize this team," he says. "For me, moving back to Canada now, it's perfect timing. I've talked to some former players about how we need to be more involved with U of L basketball and whatever we can do to help bring it back to its southern Alberta roots."

Now living in Calgary, Holt has made the most of his U of L education. A finance major, he has worked in the banking industry (Bank of Montreal), the oil and gas sector and for pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (sales representative and then district manager for the State of Nevada). Now he is embarking on a massive project with Five Guys but using the personal approach he learned in Lethbridge.

"What I'm passionate about is training people, developing a culture and helping people get better, and this is a great opportunity," says Holt. "How do you do this on a large scale? You start with one store and replicate it 130 times. In the end, we'll have a company where people love to work and love who they work for."


• Holt and his wife Brittany have four children, including Isaac (8), Anne (6), Ty (3) and 18-month old Josh.

• Holt was named an All-Canadian in his final season at the U of L.

• Plans call for Holt and his group to open a Five Guys restaurant in Lethbridge in April.

• He lauds the U of L for bringing in Dave Adams as head coach and Ryan Hall as athletics manager. Adams was an assistant with the 1999-2000 team and Hall a senior guard and shutdown defender. "The University reaching out to former players is great, and this is a great example of starting this tradition of involving people from the past to make the future better."