Honoring Dr. Arthur G. Holder

In the summer of 2016, Dr. Arthur G. Holder will be retiring from his position as the GTU's Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs after 14 years of distinguished service. We are pleased that Dr. Holder will remain a member of the GTU's Core Doctoral Faculty as Professor of Christian Spirituality.

The GTU will beholding a reception celebrating Arthur Holder on May 5, from 4:30-6:00 pm. We look forward to gathering Arthur’s colleagues, students, and friends to celebrate his achievements. If you'd like to attend, please RSVP to Angela Muñoz at amunoz@gtu.edu no later than April 27th, 5 pm. See the event announcement for further details.

As part of the GTU's celebration of Arthur's work, several members of the GTU community were invited to share written reflections about Arthur Holder and his work as Dean. In our Spring 2016 issue of Currents, we published two of these essays ("A Steady Hand" by Judith Berling, and "Celebrating the Venerable Arthur Holder" by Elizabeth Drescher), and included brief excerpts or quotes from several other reflections. Click here to see a PDF of the tribute to Arthur Holder in Currents.

Below you will find the complete and unedited version of the reflections that were quoted in Currents, as well as several additional essays. If you would like to add your own voice to this collection of tributes to Dr. Arthur G. Holder, please contact communications@gtu.edu.     

Read reflections by:

 

From Dr. Munir Jiwa, Director of the GTU's Center for Islamic Studies: 

Dearest Arthur,

Words cannot express how deeply grateful I am to you for your extraordinary leadership, mentorship and friendship. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generosity of spirit, and for the care and kindness you have shown me and the Center for Islamic Studies. You are exemplary in that Christian Spirituality is not just your academic commitment but something you practice in all that you do. I am a better director, scholar, teacher and Muslim because of your dedication. Alhamdulillah (Praise God) and congratulations on your many years of exceptional and selfless service as the GTU Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs, and what a privilege to continue working with you.

With deep gratitude, peace and blessings,

Munir

 

From Dr. Kathleen Kook, GTU Dean of Students:

I think I must have performed many good deeds over the course of several lifetimes, because in this life I have had the great good fortune and supreme blessing of working closely with Arthur G. Holder.  From our earliest days of negotiating with faculty over admissions decisions, to our most recent work together on accreditation reports and visits and a new doctoral program curriculum, I have had a profound  appreciation for Arthur’s genuine spirit, intellect, eloquence, deep commitment, faith, good humor, and, especially, his respect and support.  He is a steadfast comrade, a respectful associate, a creative thinker, a co-teacher who works in full partnership, and a mentor with an elegant diplomacy.  As an executive administrator, he is a poet who bridges imagination and reality.  More than a work colleague, at the GTU, Arthur is my very best friend.

 

From Dr. Bruce Lescher (PhD, '91), Senior Lecturer in Christian Spirituality, former Associate Academic Dean, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University

I was Associate Academic Dean at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University 2009 – 2014. During that time I served with Arthur on the Council of Deans, and I was chair of the Council 2012 – 2014. I was very impressed by Arthur’s competence and graciousness.

In terms of competence, Arthur was always fully informed of the varied and complex administrative developments that were occurring during this time. With great skill he dealt with multiple constituencies, including faculty, deans, presidents, the Board of Trustees, consultants, and accreditors (both WASC and ATS). On many occasions I sent him an email requesting information about a particular procedure at the GTU, and usually within an hour I would receive an informative reply.

In terms of graciousness, I have always found Arthur to be respectful of all persons, be they deans or students. He has an even-tempered personality that was a perfect fit for dealing with the varied constituencies of the GTU.

As Dean, Arthur’s primary responsibility was to maintain the academic integrity of the GTU’s programs. I always found him a strong advocate for faculty and students, as attested by the esteem in which he is held by faculty colleagues.

Finally, despite Arthur’s many administrative responsibilities, he maintained his scholarly interest in the history of Christian spirituality and edited important publications in the field. As one of my colleagues at JST put it, he is “a scholar’s scholar.” 

 

From Angela Muñoz, Administrative Assistant to the Dean and MA Coordinator:

I first met Arthur as a student in Fall 1998 in a brand new course he (as CDSP Professor and Dean) and then doctoral student, Lisa Dahill, taught called “Introduction to Christian Spirituality.” Being raised Roman Catholic, I was challenged to read and write a paper on John Wesley’s Doctrine of Christian Perfection and also explore the sensuality in the writings of Carter Heyward. Though I have since good-heartedly teased Arthur that he gave me my one and only “B+” on my FST transcript, I was introduced to Arthur’s generosity, sensitivity, and grace in the ways that he co-taught with Lisa, helped to create a community of learners, and took seriously my attempts to grapple with what were for me new theological notions.

Arthur and I passed each other again briefly at the FST Commencement in May 2003 while I was working at FST and he had recently begun as GTU Academic Dean. But it wasn’t until January 2007 when I got the job of Administrative Assistant & MA Program Coordinator that I was able to really get to know Arthur. In that first semester there were two faculty searches taking place; we had a joint ATS-WASC accreditation visit; and since I had before been affiliated with FST, I was brand new to the specific business of the GTU Academic Dean’s Office and the schedule/rhythm of all the meetings and constituencies to whom this office is accountable. Now this combination of potentially stressful events were not presented in that way at all. Arthur calmly instructed me in what I needed to do to prepare for each of those multi-dimensional projects. He patiently answered every question (which I’m sure came in multiple duplications). As I had worked in student affairs before, he introduced and steered me through GTU’s approach to academic affairs. He taught me about the complexity of the GTU which he thoroughly understands as well as its history of which he has been a vital part.  And thankfully, there was also humor. We completed all those projects together without any incident (or at least none that I knew of or can recall). It has been this way for the last nine years.

Throughout our weekly 1:1 meetings, various constituency and special project meetings, annual lectures and events, providing academic services to GTU MA and PhD program students, working and partnering with various faculty and administrators around the consortium, hosting guests and visitors, accreditation and program review visits, and hopefully supporting other offices of the GTU, I have witnessed a true “southern gentleman.” I have learned a great deal from Arthur not just as a very gifted administrator, scholar, teacher, and mentor, but about the deep and abiding spirit of a man whose faith and heart have guided him in his life and work. How he has himself been mentored by other wise women and men and has committed himself to honor their legacy. How he has not stopped learning and growing with the changes occurring around him even while it can be uncomfortable and unchartered ground. And how he meets every person with respect, kindness, and good will.

Thank you, Arthur. It has been a blessed and wonderful partnership. I’m so glad it was only just beginning when I got that B+!

 

From Dr. Susan S. Phillips, Executive Director and Professor of Christianity and Sociology, New College Berkeley:

Dr. Arthur Holder has been an excellent friend to New College Berkeley and me during his years as Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the GTU. He has generously extended to us his organizational skills and wisdom as well as his pastoral care, and we have been well-served and well-taught by him and the example he has set for us in our professional formation.

I meet monthly with Arthur in two different groups: the directors of the GTU’s Centers and the GTU’s faculty in Christian Spirituality. In the former group he is host and convener, encouraging and guiding our separate and shared work.  He has been essential in shaping the interfaith vision of the GTU as it is expressed in the work of the Centers. In the Christian Spirituality area Arthur is a fellow scholar, but one who knows a great deal more than the rest of us about the workings of “GTU Central.” In both contexts Arthur offers expert navigational aid with humility and kindness.

My NCB colleagues and I often comment that we don’t know when we’ve met a person who so graciously blends the gifts of scholar, pastor, and leader. Arthur’s scholarship is significant, and he is a ready mentor to other scholars. His pastoral care is evident in the way he listens to colleagues, even in the context of agenda-driven meetings. As a leader, he empowers those whose work he watches over and helps us grow in the work we do.

I direct one of the smaller organizations within the GTU, yet Arthur has never given me the sense that he regards me or New College Berkeley as inconsequential. He readily accepts our invitations to attend events and introduce speakers. He’s written letters of reference on our behalf for a number of purposes. The NCB community and I much appreciated Arthur’s invitation to me to be a respondent to his GTU 2010 Distinguished Faculty Lecture, an act that made us feel welcome and known.

I return to the words “humility” and “kindness” time and again when I think of Arthur.  He’s also strategic and effective, while being personable and possessing a lively sense of humor. He is exceptionally bright in an environment of bright folks, and his brightness is tempered by warmth. We at New College Berkeley look to him with respect, trust, and ongoing friendship.

During Arthur’s years as Dean of the GTU, there have transitions for the GTU and many of the schools and institutes within it, and some of those changes have entailed loss. Education, and theological education in particular, have been weathering storms. I can’t think of a better person to have offered navigational guidance through all kinds of weather than Dean Arthur Holder.

 

From Dr. Robert J. Russell, Director, Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences

Arthur has been a trusted friend, a wise Dean, and a committed member of the CTNS Board for many years. As a trusted friend I have been wonderfully privileged to share with him much of my life journey, both its highs and lows, leading up to the present context, and for this I am immensely grateful.  As my Dean, I have grown wonderfully through our annual faculty review where Arthur has listened to my joys and challenges in teaching MDiv and doctoral courses.  As a long-term member of the CTNS Board Arthur has represented both the GTU's perspective and CTNS's vision in gentle yet clear ways, and out of these meetings I have come away with a much stronger understanding of how CTNS relates to the GTU now, as an external Affiliate of the GTU, and soon as an internal Program of the GTU.  I can't imagine how we would have negotiated this immensely complicated transition from Affiliate to Program without Arthur's sage advice communicated by his gentle tone. Arthur truly embodies what I would understand as a Christian disciple in the wonderful GTU ethos of ecumenical and inter-religious communities.  He typifies why I created CTNS in 1981 at the GTU.  I am deeply grateful that he has been my academic Dean for all these years, my colleague in scholarship, my trusted voice of wisdom and prudence for CTNS, and most of all my dear friend.

 

From Dr. Dana Kramer-Rolls (PhD, 2000) 

In order to describe how Arthur saved my PhD, I need to say a little about myself.  By age 20, I was a graduate student with two published scientific papers.  But a future for a female who thought outside of the box in the 1960s and 1970s wasn’t the free intellectual landscape enjoyed by younger millennials and X-generation students today (although to be fair, we have a better grip on English grammar and can write in cursive). So my graduate career was a serious of fits and starts, sometimes to the ABD level, sometimes shifting focus as I changed and as opportunity was available.  The GTU was my last chance.  From a scholarly family, nothing other than a doctoral hood would do.  I had my own burning desire and family honor to uphold.

I did a terminal MA in Systematic Theology in record time and then moved on to the PhD program. In the current departmental structure, I would have found a place, but as it was, I was finally lumped, after a couple of false starts, in that old catchall, Interdisciplinary Studies.  Still thinking outside of the box!  At that delicate phase of committee formation and dissertation proposal, my then current committee chair took an indefinite leave of absence on medical grounds, and I was left hanging.  I knew Arthur from the CDSP, the Episcopal Church, and from classes.  And what seminars they were.  Creative, interesting, challenging.  He made early medieval texts and spirituality alive, filled with amazing people in a landscape of the natural world of plants and animals.  The Song of Songs and the (probably homo-erotic) friendship of monastic communities became touching, relevant, and filled with wonder.  Each class group bonded with the kind of camaraderie more often associated with, for example, a theater production or other group project.  And I remember Arthur taking us on a field trip to the library to teach us everything we would ever need to know about academic apparatus and research skills, which, theoretically, we should have known, but mostly didn’t.

It was to Arthur that I turned, and he took me on as the chair of my committee.  I’m sure I wasn’t the easiest student he ever had. My work encompassed medieval legends, social history, and folklore.  Arthur was kind, patient, and supportive, as well as a rigorous academic tutor.  And I finally did it, in 2000, forty years after my first foray into postgraduate work.  It was too late to make a full career, but I have published, lectured, and taught.  And I am still doing it.  And Arthur is still a mentor; the occasional stops into his office over the years are precious in their welcoming kindness, support, and friendship.

If I were to describe Dean Prof. Dr. Father Arthur Holder, what comes to mind is the phrase from Canterbury Tales, “He was a veray perfit gentil knight.”  Arthur Holder is a very perfect Christian gentleman, priest, and scholar, and one I am honored to call friend.