Syracuse University Magazine

The Rewards of an Academic Life


By Richard L. Holloway

This year, my 19th as dean of students for the Medical College of Wisconsin, marked my return to faculty life. It’s been a great run, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have served in this administrative role of a medical school of 819 students for all these years. Frankly, I never imagined my career would have gone in this direction. When I started my academic career as an assistant professor in health sciences in 1976, I was barely aware of medical schools and how they functioned. But I immediately began to love the medical school environment and its commitment to caring for people. It was pretty intoxicating, to go from a naïve graduate to a professional who was viewed as possessing a skill set that would help train physicians. I received my Ph.D. from Syracuse nearly 40 years ago, but in so many ways, the comparatively short time I spent at Syracuse is far more vivid to me today than many of the career events I’ve experienced since.

Richard HollowayI remember entering Huntington Hall for the first time on a hot, muggy August afternoon, having zero clue of what I was embarking on. I just knew that the reputation of Syracuse was superb and that I was extremely fortunate to have been accepted into a Ph.D. program. Immediately, I was welcomed by a more senior graduate student and introduced to several more. I was enormously impressed with their collective sense of purpose and commitment. And, they accepted me as one of their own: no initiation period, no “prove it to me” mentality, just support coupled with an expectation of excellence. They also introduced me to toasted honey buns, something that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.

Perhaps my most enduring memory is of the values instilled by our faculty at Syracuse. While we students learned many important skills and acquired so much knowledge, what has stuck with me for this entire time is the strong sense of worth the faculty placed on academic achievement and the challenge of shaping ideas. I wanted to be just like them—committed to an academic career and advancing knowledge, then applying that knowledge to the solution of important problems. In addition, they imparted a sense of academic community that has become a part of my being. Our faculty at the Program on Instructional Design, Development, and Evaluation hosted an annual retreat at the Sagamore Lodge on Raquette Lake. Wow! What a heady experience for a young graduate student to participate in seminars and late-night discussions, not to mention canoeing and hiking, to bond and explore important ideas. What I gained from those experiences is a commitment to academic life I carry in my soul to this day.

So, as I return to my academic department as a professor of family and community medicine, I return to the fundamental values of the role of an academician—values I acquired through my most memorable time at Syracuse University.

Richard L. Holloway G’76, who holds a Ph.D. degree from the School of Education, has research interests in the doctor-patient relationship, with an emphasis on the humanities in medicine and writing for personal reflection. He lives in Brookfield, Wisconsin.