Jonathan Holloway (Special Tribute)

Edmund S. Morgan Professor of African American Studies, History, and American Studies

Jonathan Holloway, A.B. Stanford University, M.A. 1991 and Ph.D. 1995 Yale University, faculty member at Yale since 1999: You are a historian of post-emancipation American history and black intellectualism—but at Yale you have been so much more than that.

In your book Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 1919–1941, and in Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America since 1940, for which you won the 2014 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, you consider and chronicle major black figures and the stories vital to the understanding of the black identity. You write with the same gift that has always been in evidence in your iconic class “African American History: From Emancipation to the Present” where you are acknowledged as a fantastic storyteller who takes your students through the material in a compelling way, moving beyond facts to make them not only see but feel many aspects of the African American experience. For your excellence in teaching you were selected by your students to receive the William Clyde DeVane Award for outstanding scholarship and undergraduate teaching, one of the most coveted prizes at Yale.

But this is only the beginning. For nine years you were the popular Master of Calhoun College [now Grace Hopper], the students’ beloved Dr. J., who with Aisling and your children and your dogs made the “Houn” a place of true community, and where you brilliantly toed the line between, as one of your Hounies said, as “a social presence, role model, and authority figure.” You gracefully chaired the Council of Masters [now Council of Heads] for four years, herding a group of independent spirits with notable patience, skill, and tolerance. You then chaired the Department of African American Studies for three years before taking on the job of Dean of Yale College. In this current position, you have worked tirelessly, supporting students, dealing with major issues, working with a large and complicated office handling everything from the curriculum to the extracurricular, and much in between.

Not many faculty members truly know the scope of what the head of the Yale College Dean’s Office does because it is almost indescribable. Every day brings new and unimagined challenges. You have met them, as usual, with calm, thoughtfulness, decency, courtesy, and good will. It isn’t easy seeing you go off to another great university, but as you trade the blue of Yale for the purple of Northwestern, your friends and colleagues at Yale salute you with a hat as wonderful as the ones you wear on Class Day, and vow to watch your future with interest and pride.

Tribute Editor: Penelope Laurans