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A Steady Hand

Throughout 14 years as GTU dean, Arthur Holder has led with wisdom and grace.

This summer, Dr. Arthur G. Holder will be retiring as the GTU's Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs after 14 years of distinguished service. On the next three pages, you'll find excerpts from reflections written by members of the GTU community in celebration of Arthur's work. Visit www.gtu.edu/honoringArthur to see more - and to share your own words of appreciation.

by Judith Berling

From the Spring 2016 issue of CurrentsSee PDF

About fifteen years ago, I sat down to lunch with Arthur Holder, then Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Christian Spirituality at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Over the course of our conversation, I realized Arthur might be open to being recruited for the position of GTU Dean, and encouraged the President to approach him immediately. I take pride in having helped recruit Arthur Holder to serve as Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the GTU, as he has been exactly the Dean the GTU needed during these challenging times.

The GTU Deanship is a fascinating but challenging position, with a great deal of responsibility to facilitate consortial academic collaboration and to run a world-class doctoral program, while drawing almost entirely on faculty whose employment and primary teaching responsibilities are in one of the member schools. The responsibilities are great, but the actual structural authority of the Dean is “soft,” based on the power of persuasion to establish and sustain collaborative relationships. It takes a special set of virtues to be effective in this position, and Arthur Holder has been richly endowed with those virtues.

Arthur has led the Core Doctoral Faculty (CDF) with steady wisdom, gentle humor, and a profound gift for seeing reasonable pathways through complex issues. He listens well, and has a knack for cutting through Gordian knots of miscommunication. His clear thinking and lucid communication engender trust and confidence. When those around him are digging in and exaggerating their different points of view, Arthur calmly leads the discussion back to the key underlying issues on which there is often substantial agreement. He is articulate, thorough, insightful—and always fair.

Arthur is patient and resilient, taking the long view. Years before the GTU adopted its new doctoral curriculum, Arthur established a task force of young faculty who then presented the bones of the structure now in place. At that time the Core Doctoral Faculty was intrigued, but not ready to make a change. But those seeds, planted well in advance, made the eventual acceptance of the new structure easier, for the ideas had been in the air for some time.

Like many other faculty, I have come to trust Arthur’s even-handed judgment on policy and student issues. As a former Dean, I have a good understanding of GTU policies and procedures, but I have learned again and again that it is wise to consult Arthur to see if I am missing an important perspective or possible implications of an issue. He has more than once clarified my thinking so that I am more even-handed in applying policy and procedures to complex student situations.

I am in awe of Arthur’s ability to respond quickly, clearly, and crisply to inquiries. He once emailed me a response to a query while he was standing in line at the hardware store! His efficient responses to faculty and staff keep the institution running smoothly and efficiently, and help us feel we have access to our Dean.

As a member of the GTU’s Rostered Faculty, I reported to him annually and sought his counsel about professional decisions, sabbaticals, and priorities. He is astonishingly supportive, both personally and professionally, yet he asks discerning and insightful questions that have caused me to think deeply about my work and my life. His generous spirit, his ability to set expectations that help me thrive, and his astonishing capacity to appreciate the work and gifts of others have modeled for me what leadership—and friendship--are all about.

Arthur Holder has made a deep and lasting mark on this institution. We are all better for his service, his presence, his steady hand on the rudder of the institution as it has navigated rough seas.

Judith Berling is Professor of Chinese and Comparative Religions, and former Dean of the GTU.