VAN CLEVE: Farewell, Dr. J

One trademark of life at Yale is the pervasive and zealous competition among residential colleges. This rivalry is present on the IM fields, on the YHHAP Fast sign-up list and in the contest for the Sheffield Society House Prize.

Calhoun College may not be the fastest or the strongest (we are currently in 12th place in the Tyng Cup standings), but we have certainly been the luckiest residential college at Yale because since 2005 we have had Jonathan Holloway GRD ’95 as our master. Dr. J, as he is affectionately known, has been more than a master to Calhoun students; he has been our advocate, our biggest fan, our Crazy Uncle Johnny and our friend.

From my first day of college, when I walked into Calhoun and Master Holloway greeted me and 110 other freshmen by name, I could tell that Dr. J cared about Calhoun in a big way. Despite serving as Chair of the Department of African American Studies, Chair of the Council of Masters, and a professor of History, American Studies and African American Studies, Dr. J always has time for Calhoun students. I once sent him an email about a lack of hot water in Entryway A of Calhoun, to which he responded to in four minutes and 12 seconds.

Dr. J’s mastership has been defined by his belief that no problem is too small, and that we as Hounies are automatically deserving of his aid, respect and friendship. In his emails, Dr. J addresses us as “Beautiful Hounies” or “Most Awesome Ones” or “Most Populars, Best Lookings and Most Likely To Succeeds.” He never misses an opportunity to boost us up, reminding us that “Calhoun-Don’t-Lip-Synch-’Cause-It-Brings-It-Live-and-In-Color-All-the-Time.”

This high opinion that Master Holloway holds of his students goes hand in hand with high expectations. When Calhoun students aren’t behaving at their best, Dr. J’s alter ego, “Crazy Uncle Johnny,” emerges. We are taught, through Uncle Johnny’s frustration with acts that don’t live up to the Calhoun spirit, that no one should be exempt from community standards. We are taught, through his response to our inevitable mistakes, that honesty turns blunders into growth. As Dr. J once wrote to us, “I value a community that values itself.”

And Master Holloway has certainly done his part to value his community. Not only does he hold us to the highest standards, he is also willing to step up to defend us and to take care of us. When a finals study break ran out of sushi too early, Dr. J vehemently apologized and hosted another the next day. When a lost Tamagotchi key chain was brought into the master’s office, Dr. J sent a Calhoun-wide email pleading for the owner to rescue it, “worried that some digital creature is about to go starving.” When fraternity pledges chanted, “No means yes” on Old Campus during my freshman year, Dr. J spoke out to the Calhoun community, reminding us that we needn’t ever accept indecency.

Over the course of Master Holloway’s term in Calhoun, several members of the college have passed away. It would be remiss to speak of Dr. J’s mastership without mentioning the attitude of compassion, empathy and support he and Calhoun Dean Leslie Woodard cultivated in the college during those difficult times. Though I did not personally know either Mandi Schwartz ’11 or Daniel Siegel ’11, I vividly remember Master Holloway’s touching tributes to their memories. In times of sadness, he has proven to be an emotional bedrock for the community.

When Dr. J steps down as master, he will leave big shoes to fill, particularly at the dining hall station where he cooked omelets that rivaled Chef Kenny’s. The Calhoun Mellon Forum will not be the same without his wife Aisling’s graceful facilitation and the courtyard will be strangely quiet without his children Emerson and Ellison’s laughter.

Though their presence will be sorely missed, the new master of Calhoun is a lucky individual. He or she will inherit a cohesive college community, one that knows the value of respect, responsibility and a really good study break. Following Dr. J’s example, Hounies will hold their new master to a mile-high standard and will support him or her on this adventure.

I have no doubt that the Calhoun Class of 2018 — though they may not bring the athletic prowess needed for us to get to 11th place in the Tyng rankings — will be taught by their Houn Sibs to exemplify Uncle Johnny’s principles of positive community. The Calhoun Class of 2014 will say goodbye to the college along with Master Holloway, confident that the gifts he gave us will continue to shape the community we leave behind.

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