Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway — the first African-American to hold the position and a former graduate student, professor and residential college head at Yale — announced in an email Monday afternoon that he will step down this June.
Holloway wrote that he informed University President Peter Salovey of his decision on Nov. 10, and that he will serve as the provost of Northwestern University starting July 1.
“Becoming a dean gave me a whole new perspective on what everything at Yale College is all about,” Holloway told the News in a phone call. “It’s been challenging, but there’s no doubt I’d rather have it be challenging and interesting than just an easy gig.”
Holloway, who received his Ph.D from Yale in 1995, joined the University’s history department as an assistant professor in 1999 and received tenure five years later. He served as the master of Calhoun College from 2005 to 2014, and chaired the African American Studies department from 2013 to 2014. Holloway took over from Mary Miller as Yale College dean nearly two-and-a-half years ago.
“I have held a wide variety of positions at Yale over the course of these years, but from any perspective one thing remains clear: This is a very special place,” Holloway wrote in the Monday afternoon email. “Though we have a sterling faculty and a dedicated staff, the students have always been the greatest source of inspiration to me. And so, to every student who is reading this message, please accept my heartfelt thanks.”
After Miller left the deanship in 2014, Yale administrators elected to split the role in half, allocating oversight of the academic portion of Yale College — including issues like faculty promotion and tenure — to the newly created position of dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The new system left Holloway free to administer other aspects of the college, such as curricular reviews and the opening of the two new residential colleges.
In an email to the Yale community Monday afternoon, Salovey called Holloway “a calm and compassionate presence in turbulent times.”
“This exciting opportunity for Dean Holloway is one in which we all should take great pride—it reflects his stature as a highly respected university leader and as one of the great experts on post-emancipation U.S. history,” Salovey wrote. “The loss to Yale, however, is incalculable. He has been a trusted advisor, invaluable colleague, and revered teacher and mentor.”
The dean of Yale College is appointed to serve a five-year term. Holloway will leave Yale on June 30, three years after he started the job.
In an interview with the News, Holloway said his Chicago plans only came together in the last four weeks, after he got a phone call from Northwestern President Morton Schapiro.
“This really caught me by surprise,” Holloway said. “I was basically minding my own business, when I received a phone call inquiring whether I was willing to consider a move.”
“I know there’s a lot of speculation,” he added. “I was not pushed out, I’m not leaving in a huff or a tizzy or anything like that. This is just a really exciting professional opportunity.”
Holloway will depart Yale just weeks before the two new residential colleges open on Prospect Street. He told the News that he will be disappointed not to see the colleges open, but that his role in administering the transition has mostly ended.
As racial protests swept Yale last year, Holloway became a potent symbol for hundreds of African-American activists on campus. He was criticized for taking several days to respond to two racially charged incidents that took place over Halloween weekend. On a dramatic day last November, he stood atop the Women’s Table on Cross Campus to address a crowd of students, vowing to “do better.”
He said the address on Cross Campus — a three-hour emotional marathon witnessed by hundreds of students and faculty members from across the University — stands out as one of his most memorable experiences at Yale.
“It wasn’t fun to be standing there, that wasn’t fun,” Holloway said. “But I really admire the students that when I asked to speak they wanted to listen also. That’s a credit to the community.”
Salovey wrote in his email that the University will soon select an advisory committee for the appointment of the next Yale College dean.