Dean Search | Holloway: Charismatic, but too young?

Jonathan Holloway GRD ’95 begins the first lecture of his courses by telling students the story of how he became a historian.

His mother, a pre-school teacher in Concord, Mass., used to take the four- or five-year-old Holloway on her field trips, where he would see the actual breastworks where the minutemen once stood. Once, she took a headstone rubbing of a slave who bought his freedom and died on the eve of the American Revolution.

“Though he was born in a land of slavery, he was born free,” the epitaph reads. “Though he lived in a land of liberty, he lived a slave.”

The etching hung in Holloway’s parents’ home for 15 years. When he attended Yale for graduate school, he brought it with him. It then moved to his academic office and finally to the Calhoun College master’s office, where the rubbing — which Holloway, 41, uses to represent the ironies of American history and the African-American experience — now shares a wall with the cane of John C. Calhoun, the vehement 19th century defender of slavery.

It could soon relocate again — this time to the Yale College Dean’s Office.

Holloway, a professor of history, American studies and African American studies, has become one of the most talked-about candidates to succeed Peter Salovey as the dean of Yale College. Holloway is seen as an electrifying choice for the post — he is an insider, who attended Yale and has worked closely with undergraduates, he would add diversity to the administration’s upper ranks and he is a respected, albeit young, scholar. But unlike other leading candidates, notably astronomy professor Charles Bailyn ’81, Holloway is not a scientist. Perhaps a bigger hurdle, though, is the time his C.V. may need still to ripen: the Calhoun master has only published one book.

In a campus-wide e-mail commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, University President Richard Levin outlined his goal to appoint minorities and women to major offices.

Since then, he has appointed no people of color to major positions, and minorities remain scarce in the administration’s upper echelons.

But he said he is serious about changing that. And, after Harvard College tapped a black woman as its dean last March, the pressure may be building to make it happen soon.

“Every time I appoint a committee, I say, ‘Look, I want you to really work hard to see if there are qualified women or people of color for this job,’ ” Levin said in an interview Sunday. “And I did that in this case as well.”

Though the final choice for dean rests with Levin, Holloway, who declined to comment for this story, may already have some fans in Yale’s upper echelons: His uncle is Barrington Parker, a federal judge and member of the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body.


While the 10-member committee charged with presenting candidates to Levin may have diversity in mind, Holloway’s biggest strength, at least as far as his ’Hounies are concerned, is his charisma.

“Part of why Calhoun is so cohesive is his force of personality,” Rosa Li ’09 said. “He is Calhoun.”

“Dr. J,” as he is sometimes called, is the driving force behind Calhoun’s community, said Katie Earle ’09, a master’s aide and a freshman counselor.

Holloway is determined to make the freshmen feel included in the absence of a dining hall while Calhoun undergoes a renovation, she said. He is working with the freshman counselors to plan special trips and dinners. He has memorized every student’s name and makes an effort to get to know each of them.

Earl said being accessible and personable to students is an important quality for a dean and one for which Salovey is often praised.

Plus, his family is universally acknowledged to be downright adorable, Earl said. Earl occasionally baby-sits for Holloway’s two young children.

“He has a great family, and they’ve really immersed themselves in Yale and Calhoun,” said master’s aide and fellow babysitter Sylvana Hidalgo ’09. “That’s part of why he does it with such ease — because he has his family to support him.”

Hidalgo remembers how Holloway’s personal attention eased her transition into college and made her feel welcome. And that continued when she joined the Calhoun College Council. The Master would even be involved in designing the college’s T-shirts.

“The man has important things to do, but he would take the time to talk about something to make students happy,” she said.

That kind of dedication and interaction reminds her of Salovey famously conducting the Yale Precision Marching Band at football games.

“That’s something you can’t pay a person to do,” she said. “It’s something the person has to want to do himself.”

In the past several weeks, both faculty members and students have said that the only drawback of Salovey becoming provost is losing him as a dean. The only drawback to Holloway becoming dean, Hidalgo said, would be Calhoun’s losing him as master.


Holloway graduated from Stanford University (the alma mater of both Levin and Salovey) in 1989. After receiving his doctorate from Yale in 1995, Holloway taught at the University of California, San Diego, before returning to Yale in 1999. He became master in 2005.

When Salovey was appointed dean, he had already been a department chair and Dean of the Graduate School. Some of the other contenders to be Salovey’s successor have also chaired departments or centers or sat on the pivotal Committee on Yale College Education.

Holloway was on the Study Group to Consider the New Residential Colleges, where he helped write part of a report that addressed the importance of the residential colleges to student life and how the two new ones could affect Yale’s culture. The expansion of the College is sure to be one of the foremost issues on the next dean’s agenda.

“Anybody who was on that committee, and any master, is in a good position to know about the changes the new colleges will present,” Master William Sledge, the committee’s chairman, psychiatry professor and former Calhoun Master, said. “It’s an inside view.”

But the dean is also extensively involved in faculty appointments, alongside the dean of the Graduate School and the provost. Since the Dean of the Graduate School, Jon Butler, is a historian and Salovey, who will take over as provost next week, is a psychologist, Yale’s scientists are clamoring for a seat at the table.

Holloway was on the committee that recommended comprehensive changes to the tenure system last year. But he is not a scientist, and, at 41, he is still a young scholar who has only published one book, Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 1919-1941, in 2002.

Even so, he has made a name for himself in his field, his colleagues said.

African-American studies professor Elizabeth Alexander, who will become the department’s chair next July, said African-American intellectual history was an untold story until Holloway became the leading scholar on the subject. His books, research and classes focus on the contributions of African-Americans to American cultural history, she said.

Alexander described Holloway’s teamwork and collaborative approach within his department, just like his aides described him as Calhoun’s master.

“He’s not a cowboy,” she said. His frequent e-mails, she said, are populated by we’s, us’s and together’s.

Alexander said Holloway represents something exciting about the future of the University, both in a scholarly and a generational way.

That future will inevitably weigh heavily on the choice of the next dean. As Levin eyes retirement in the next three to five years, the question of who will succeed him looms over his choice for the dean.

While Salovey appears the obvious pick so far, Levin has said he wants to leave the Yale Corporation with several good options. One of them surely has to be the new dean.

And by the time the presidency is likely to open up, Holloway would still be in his mid- to late 40s — roughly the same age as Levin when he took the job.


  • Anonymous

    ydn needs to stop lifting phrases verbatim from its own articles. this is just "search for dean narrows," revisited.

  • CC '09

    Bravo YDN! Yale would be truly lucky to have a man like Jonathan Holloway as its new Dean. And in an election year where the likely next President is a brilliant, eloquent 47 year old family man, how can we not look to the future and place our own brilliant, eloquent 41 year old family man in a seat of power that will fundamentally change the way the world perceives our beloved Yale. The time for change is now!

  • CC '10

    This is a joke. Mr. Holloway would be a horrible choice for the next Dean of Yale College. As a student in his residential college, I can say that he lacks any semblance of personality, and seems only to be going through the motions of being a college Master, without actually giving a rip about what he is doing. He is cold, distant, and ultimately, very boring.

    If Mr. Holloway is selected based largely upon his African-American heritage, which according to this article seems to be his main qualification for the job, it would represent a significant move backward in the push for greater equality. As an African-American, I would personally be offended. Students and alumni alike would see the dangers of selection based solely upon race, and would then view other minority candidates for other positions with greater suspicion. Mr. Holloway is not Barack Obama.

    When I look at my Calhoun College Freshman Olympics t-shirt, I feel absolutely no pride, whatsoever. I feel none of the "Houn Love" that our Master's aides often talk about, or that is often mentioned in Holloway's forced emails. I feel I am among the majority of Calhoun students in saying this.

    It would be absolutely tragic for future generations of Elis to lack feeling for Yale College, as well.

  • Anonymous

    cc'10 youre a hata and youre wrong.

  • The Contrarian

    Dear CC'10,

    You miss an important point. The "Selectors" of the College Dean would be able to feel SO WONDERFUL ABOUT THEMSELVES. And that's a powerful motivation indeed.

    If you don't feel "Houn Love", who cares? You're supposed to, that all that really matters. Just listen to your babbling classmates and stop thinking -- or worse, feeling -- for yourself.

    I'm not impartial, though. I pretty-much hated Calhoun but thankfully one can transfer out.

    Cordially yours.

  • a different CC '09

    Whoa… where could so much bitterness come from? Even as someone only peripherally involved in most houn activities, I think that Dr. J has done a fantastic job of making Calhoun a warm and welcoming community. I emphatically reject the notion that you are "among the majority of Calhoun students" in your opinions; I've never heard such vitriol directed at Dr J before.

  • Ovata

    I have to agree with CC '10, tho. Dr. J isn't as popular as some of you on this board are saying. Just go up to random Hounies and ask them…they are indifferent at best, usually.

  • Publius

    As a member of the Calhoun class of '73, it makes me sad to see that Calhoun might have gained a reputation as "the Affirmative Action College" potentially as a reaction to its association with the pro-slavery John C. Calhoun, as I've heard mentioned in recent years. Apparently neither Jonathan Holloway nor Leslie Woodard are very popular, which then makes people naturally wonder why they were ever put into these jobs in the first place.

    I wish no ill toward either Holloway or toward Woodard. I'm quite certain they are each quite remarkable individuals. Yet I still wonder…

  • Bring Back Cozza

    Holloway as President of Yale? My God…

  • another CC '09

    Agreed! CC '10, you are either not in Calhoun or not involved in any of the myriad extracurricular opportunities that Master Holloway and his lovely wife provide for us day in and day out!

    I challenge you to find another college at Yale or another school IN THIS COUNTRY that has the sense of family and community that Calhoun College has had for the past four years under Master Holloway. Dr. J is a man who has proven himself to be head and shoulders above his peer group time and time again, and as for your slanderous, unfounded assertion that his would be a simple affirmative action pick, I challenge you to sit down for two minutes across from DOCTOR Holloway and tell me that the man is neither eloquent nor unequivocally brilliant!

    My only hope is that you are an ardent supporter of one of the other candidates for this office masquerading as a Hounie, because if you truly are a Calhoun undergraduate then you have only yourself to blame for missing out on the experience and the man everyone else in this college raves about! Dr. Holloway is an incredible Master and will be an even better Dean of this institution, and a cursory poll of the students who have had the pleasure to have him as their Master will reveal the exact same sentiment!

    Best of luck Dr. J - you deserve it!

  • SY '02

    Holloway would make and excellent choice for dean. Hear, hear!

  • Anonymous

    i dont understand this hatred and this talk of affirmative action. i partly blame the writers of the ydn articles who keep talking about "diversity" when they mention potential deans who are not white men. as for jonathan holloway, hes a nice man and from what i can tell, hes very active in the college. i bet more people feel this way than not, its just that people who dont like him are more likely to post their negative opinions. its like when you go to a store or a restaurant. you dont usually say hey good job good work but i bet youll be asking for the manager if your water glass isnt filled quickly enough. and, yes, his familys cute. what im really thinking is: people get over your racial hang ups that show up when you say 1, its a token hire and 2, the powers that be will feel so good about themselves by picking an african american or a woman. if the selection committee wanted to just feel good about themselves they could go for a nice lunch, a facial and maybe a massage. the yale college dean is an important job at an important school and all kinds of things will be factored in when picking the new dean. its silly to think this is gonna be a "diversity" hire like its some kind of token move or stunt. what do you people think this is? the vp slot on the republican ticket?

  • Alum '00

    "Plus, his family is universally acknowledged to be downright adorable, Earl said. Earl occasionally baby-sits for Holloway’s two young children."

    WTF? Both this article and the one about Bailyn are filled with rumor and fluff. When did the YDN become a gossip rag?

  • Anonymous

    I'd point out to the commenters who claim they're with the "majority" who don't care for Calhoun or Master Holloway that most colleges have a large percentage of students who don't "feel the vibe" of their college. That's entirely legitimate; the arbitrary way that Yale does residential-college selection is going to make some people feel misplaced and/or indifferent. The better question is what motivates the students who DO feel some sort of college pride. Among the Hounies I know who have affection for Calhoun, that motivator is Master Holloway, hands down.

  • Yet another CC '09

    I find it interesting that the only people both in the article and this comment board who've expressed love for Master Holloway are his seniors. Perhaps the rest of the classes don't get nearly as much love as we do?
    Still, I find it hard to imagine that he would be treating his classes all that differently, although I can imagine that he's especially fond of us since we're his first class.

  • CC '10

    It's not just that the only people in favor of Holloway are seniors…it's also that it's likely all one person who works in his office.

  • Anonymous

    Dara L. hit the nail on the head.

  • CC'08

    1. Maybe the YDN could learn to proofread its own articles? I'm assuming that "Earl" = "Katie Earle" (notice the e on the end of her real name)
    2. As a member of a class that only had 3 years with Dr. J, including his very first year as Master, when strange things happened relating to couches and basketball players, I would say he was almost universally liked. What other college master put so much time and energy into college activities? I don't think I can name a single person in CC08 that didn't love Calhoun… that would be blasphemy. We won freshman olympics!

  • unimpressed

    three things:

    1. the framing of this, and the other articles on the candidates, is shameful.

    2. secondly, on a note of fact, the article stinks. check the shelves of SML one more time and count how may books JSH has written…next, ask yourself: do we measure significance in the number of books, or the effect of them?

    3. because you're so keen on "diversity" and "inclusion" why not read something erudite and incisive on the subject?
    Jonathan Holloway, "The Black Scholar, the Humanities, and the Politics of Racial Knowledge Since 1945," in David Hollinger, The Humanities and the Dynamics of Inclusion since World War II (JHU Press, 2006)

  • #20

    I agree with you CC'10. Holloway is too full of himself to deeply care about the life and stability of Yale College. I've not met too many students who adore him or even care if he's there or not.
    I do not live in Calhoun, but I've had to deal with Holloway and it's not fun.
    I would be mortified if he became dean --
    not only does he not have enough personality and goodwill, he has little to no management, fundraising or teamwork experience. He's not being considered because he's qualified. He's being considered yet again for a post because he's a token Black man at Yale.
    I'm sick of style over substance. ENOUGH.

  • Scarlet

    "The only drawback to Holloway becoming dean, Hidalgo said, would be Calhoun’s losing him as master."

    I'm in Calhoun, and I see the situation as the total opposite - the only positive to Holloway becoming dean would be that Calhoun would get a new master.

  • Anonymous

    I've met the guy several times, and to be honest he seems very nice…but I just don't think hes the man for the job. Someone better has to be out there

  • Anonymous

    there are some racist people dumber than shoes on this board.

  • Anonymous

    #23 - who is racist here?

    I really am getting tired of people claiming "racism" all of the time, when it has nothing to do with this discussion.

  • Anonymous

    #20 is one example.

    "He's being considered yet again for a post because he's a token Black man at Yale."

    race has lots to do with this discussion especially with how the ydn framed this article and others about holloway. diversity is often polite speak for race. ya, im getting tired of race too. specially people who claim it has nothing do with anything.

    boring and uneducated.

  • #24

    #25 - you read very well.

    1. I said - "racism", not "race".
    2. I said that racism has nothing to do with the discussion of selecting Holloway, not that it has nothing to do with anything.

    Don't post unless you think, first. It might make your views evolve.

  • Gaius Lucilius ('10)

    It is interesting that those who claim not to be impressed with Prof. Holloway cannot cite any *concrete* aspects of his personality or career indicating why they do not approve of him. He's "cold"? That tells me a great deal. To poster #20, who opined that "I do not live in Calhoun, but I've had to deal with Holloway and it's not fun"--of what did your dealings consist, pray tell? A surly interaction at a Mellon Forum? A disciplinary encounter that did not swing your way? Context makes the difference.
    I do not know Prof. Holloway myself, but methinks the "token black man" meme is rather tired these days. We need cogent analysis in this selection process, not just empty catch-phrases. (That goes both ways, by the way--calls for diversity need to be scrutinized, too.) We have a Yale education--let's use it.
    Nor are any alternate candidates, who may be "more ready," proposed by any commentators. I don't know whether Prof. Holloway, or anyone for that matter, is ready, because I have yet to gather all pertinent info; this is a process of appraisal that requires an overview of all candidates' backgrounds--it's a relative judgment.
    What criteria do you, my fellow students, have in mind as you assess the candidates? Such a survey would make a great YDN article (hint hint).
    This is a rather prolix response, I know, but I am frustrated with the abdication of any attempt at intellectual engagement and analysis, and with the retreat to petty insult and sloganeering, in the comments sections recently.

  • CC '10

    Gaius -

    Pompous, much?

    adjective, -er, -est, noun, adverb
    –adjective; not affectionate, cordial, or friendly; unresponsive: a cold reply; a cold reception.

    Thank you for forcing me to clarify! I wouldn't want you to misunderstand.

  • CC '15

    Anyone can say they're anyone.

  • SY '11

    I don't know much about the man, but I think it's fairly simple.

    If he is qualified, give him the job.

    If he is not, don't.

    If the latter is indeed the case and he still gets the position, then we can most definitely cite style over substance and the "token black guy" argument. It wouldn't be racist to question such an appointment, it would be FAIR. If an unqualified white man got the job, I would argue the exact same.

    That said, the former could be true as well. Opinions seem mixed. At the end of the day, we just want a stellar dean.

  • CC '10


  • CC '10

    Yale College dodged a bullet today…