Presley D. Holmes' formal higher education started at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 1950, he obtained his bachelor's degree in Speech, with a minor in English, Social Science and Education. He also received a teaching certificate at the secondary school level. He continued his education at the University of Michigan from 1950 to 1951, where he earned a master's degree in Speech (Radio). After serving in the military as an instructor of U.S. Army Psychological Warfare, from 1951 to 1953, he studied for a year at the University of Paris, Sorbonne, where he was awarded the Degé Annuel, Mention Bien. In 1959, Holmes completed his graduate studies and earned his doctorate in Speech (TV) with a minor in Educational Psychology at Wayne State University in Detroit.
He started his broadcasting career at WHRV, Ann Arbor, while studying at the University of Michigan. Holmes interrupted his pursuit of advanced degrees to work in commercial television in Detroit from 1954 to 1957, on the production staff of WWJ-TV. During the same period, he was a substitute teacher for the Detroit Public Schools. After receiving his Ph.D., Holmes stayed at Wayne State, where he taught speech and public address as an assistant professor from 1959 to 1962. He also directed a Ford Foundation TV Teaching Project from 1960 to 1961, involving videotaping eight complete classroom courses for closed-circuit and broadcast (WTVS) use.
From Michigan, Dr. Holmes went to Athens, Ohio to join the Ohio University faculty as assistant professor from 1962 to 1965, and as Director of Broadcasting at WOUB AM-FM-TV and closed-circuit ITV from 1962 to 1970. From 1966 to 1968, he served as director of the School of Radio-TV, and as an associate professor. Then, from 1968 to 1970, he was associate dean and tenured full professor in the College of Communication which had undergraduate and graduate programs in four schools: Journalism, Radio-TV, Speech and Hearing Sciences and Interpersonal Communication.
During the early years at Ohio University, from 1962 to 1966, he served the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB) as the research editor for the NAEB Journal, later the Educational Broadcasting Review. He also chaired NAEB's Research Committee and Publications Advisory Committee. In addition, he served as a consultant on NAEB's National Project for the Improvement of Televised Instruction as well as the association's ITV Study, Title III, Public Broadcasting Act, 1968.
In 1970, he joined the NAEB staff in Washington, DC as director of Educational Television Stations division. There, he represented the nationwide PTV stations to Congress, federal agencies and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). He was a member of the "six-pack", which advised CPB on the structure and formation of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Among other things he insisted that the 'S' stand for "service", not "system". His primary responsibility for non-commercial television was developing a plan and draft federal legislation for the long-range financing of public broadcasting and he continued that work as Director of Planning and Research at PBS, after the merger of ETS and PBS in 1973. His responsibilities there also included system planning for new licensees and development of facilities guidelines, for different types and sizes of stations. From 1974 to 1977, Holmes worked as programming vice president at National Public Radio (NPR) overseeing all program division functions including program production, operations/engineering, development and public information.
From 1977 to 1982, Dr. Holmes taught at the University of Illinois, Chicago as an adjunct professor, in addition to his full-time position as president and chief executive officer of the Chicago Metropolitan Higher Education Council, an interinstitutional cooperative effort to activate an ITV broadcast station. Then, from 1982 to 1987, he was executive director and chief executive officer of the West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority, a 3-station public television and an 8-station public radio statewide broadcast service. His final position, from 1987 to 1992, was at Delta College, Michigan, as Director of Broadcasting, general manager of WUCM/WUCX TV/WUCX-FM, and professor of Humanities. He retired in April, 1992.
Throughout his career, Dr. Holmes undertook many consulting projects. From 1964 to 1968, he worked with the Speech Association of America on the Radio-TV-Film Research Papers. Other projects in the sixties included the Appalachian Educational Laboratory in 1967 and the US/AID Teacher Training Project in Kano, Nigeria in 1969. From 1971 to 1974, he assisted the U.S. Office of Education with the Educational Broadcasting Facilities Program. In 1977, he consulted at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and at the Public Broadcasting Service. In early 1982, he headed a major futures project for the Pennsylvania Public Television Network.
Dr. Holmes also belonged to numerous advisory panels and boards of directors. From 1967 to 1968, he served on the National "Emmy" Award Panel of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He was the first vice president of the newly-formed Central Educational Network as well as treasurer of the Ohio Council on Educational Television Board (1967). He was elected to the National Educational Television (NET) Affiliates Council in 1968. Other board memberships include the Public Service Satellite Consortium Board of Directors from 1975 to 1981, the Illinois Public Broadcasting Council as a charter member of the board of directors starting in 1977, and the Community Advisory Board of WBEZ-Chicago from 1978 to 1979. From 1978 to 1979, Dr. Holmes worked on the Station-College Education Project on Adult Learning, a joint project of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, University of California at San Diego and the University of Mid-America. He also published articles in various journals and textbooks including AV Communication Review and Educational Radio-TV.