Calhoun College Master Jonathan Holloway GRD ’95 announced on Wednesday that he will step down at the end of the 2013–’14 academic year, leaving the college after two terms at its helm.
Holloway, who also serves as chair of the Department of African American Studies, announced news of his planned departure in a Wednesday afternoon email to Calhoun students. He said he was grateful for his experience as master, but that it was “time to let someone else have the great honor of leading this amazing community.” Having assumed the mastership in 2005 — six years after he arrived at Yale as an assistant professor — Holloway said he never imagined being master for more than 10 years.
He said he intends to focus on his academic work and to devote more time to his two children, who are 10 and 13 years old.
“Part of it is certainly my scholarship,” he said. “It’s really hard to do as master. It takes up a lot of the time you’d otherwise spend researching and writing, and I’m really wanting to get back to that full time.”
Chair of the Council of Masters from July 2009 until June 2013, Holloway helped oversee the body as it negotiated the rebalancing of residential college budgets. He said chairing the council was “tough” but that it helped him learn how the colleges fit into the broader University.
Morse College Master Amy Hungerford, who filled in as Calhoun’s master during Holloway’s sabbatical, praised the outgoing master for his “light touch as a leader.” Holloway helped the council navigate a period of change while “keeping the college system healthy across the board,” Hungerford said in a Wednesday email.
During the 2011–’12 academic year, Holloway took a sabbatical from the University that he said made him eager to “refocus on a broader scholarly agenda” and gave him time to finish a book that will be released in the next week or two.
Also factoring into his decision were his children, who have “grown up in the college,” he said.
“Part of it is thinking about where our kids are academically and developmentally,” he said, describing his family’s integration into the college community as one of his favorite aspects of being master over the last eight years.
Holloway said he will continue to teach in the History, American Studies and African American Studies departments.
Calhoun students said the news came as a surprise and a disappointment, noting Holloway’s affability, attentiveness and sense of humor. Whether he was participating in an omelet cook-off in the dining hall or sending scolding emails about late-night antics in the courtyard, they said, Holloway was a devoted master committed to building a home for students in the college.
Lily Vanderbloemen ’16, a Calhoun master’s aide, said she was sitting in the courtyard when the news reached her inbox.
“Everyone in the courtyard at the time was just astounded,” she said. “Usually his emails are giving us tickets to shows or about a special Master’s Tea. I was completely taken by surprise.”
She said the master’s family — his two children and wife, Aisling Colon — are pillars of the college community. She recalled babysitting for the master’s children and eating with them in the dining hall.
A former co-chair of Calhoun’s student activities committee, Elizabeth Henry ’14 said the college will not be the same without its beloved leader, but that she is glad to be leaving Calhoun with Holloway.
“There’s something beautiful about it,” Henry said. “The class of 2014 will be the last class that Master Holloway graduates. As we leave Calhoun, so does he.”
Henry recalled a surprise party she helped plan for Holloway before he left for his sabbatical in 2011, when students presented the master with a life-sized cutout representation of him so that “we could have him at events while he was gone,” she said.
Meg Brink ’17 said Holloway is “really protective of Calhoun” and “always eager to help.” Her sister Laura Brink ’15 added that “everyone in Calhoun is sad” about the news.
Holloway said he hopes to maintain ties to the college even when he moves out of the master’s house and into his family’s home in Cheshire, Conn.
Though he is leaving the college, Calhoun will never leave Holloway, Jonathan Edwards College Master Penelope Laurans said.
“Once you are master, you are never the same again,” Laurans said in an email. “You have a different, closer, more intimate relationship to the institution. The college has become part of your blood.”
Calhoun’s dean is Leslie Woodard, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.