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The Hallmark of Holt

I was very interested in your story about Dr. [W. Stull] Holt’s work aiding escapes from Germany during the war (Escape Artist, March). My uncle was imprisoned and separated from his wife and two sons. He told me that he was working in land reclamation and had a chance to get away.

I believe he went through Denmark and England and ended up in the United States with no idea about his family. He did manage to locate and recover the two sons and bring them to the United States, both of whom served in Vietnam. My uncle served the U.S. Army in some capacity. But I wonder if he was aided in some way by the efforts of the W.S. Holt.

B.S., NURSING, ’49

I’m an “East Coaster” of the sort that Jim Kahn writes about in his excellent and illuminating account of distinguished University of Washington History Professor W. Stull Holt’s military service in World War II. Reading Jim’s fascinating article gave me the feeling of satisfaction that comes from learning “the rest of the story” about the life and career of an important historical personage.

In 1961, after two years’ active duty in the United States Navy, I matriculated in the UW doctoral program in history. My decision to go west was based in part on the recommendation of two of my undergraduate instructors at Princeton, including newly appointed UW Professor Peter Sugar, who knew Professor Holt and of his success in building a first-rate department of history.

Among his duties as chairman of the history department, Professor Holt taught a historiography course required of all first-year students. It was an assignment he greatly enjoyed, treating it somewhat in the manner of a good-natured military officer directing a platoon of academic recruits. As an undergraduate, I got a bit of a head start by reading an article on historicism written by UW Professor Max Savelle, and was pleased to continue my professional “indoctrination” in historical thinking and writing under Dr. Holt’s discerning and expert tutelage.

Intellectually provocative and expertly informed, Stull Holt carried his learning lightly and without a trace of pedantry or pretentiousness. Dedicated to the educational and civic communities that commanded his loyalty, he was a superb and intrepid judge of talent, enterprise, and integrity. Affable and unassuming as well as dignified and worldly, Professor Holt was a man of parts whose broad experience in public affairs distinguished him as an academic statesman in the best sense of the term.

Like so many scholars of his generation, Professor Holt evinced the virtues and values of progressive democracy in the first half of the 20th century. Foremost among those virtues, as Jim Kahn so ably demonstrates, was dedication to American liberty and national security.

B.A. HISTORY, ’63, M.A., HISTORY, ’66

Thanks to Columns, and to Mr. Jim Kahn, for your terrific article about Professor Holt. Because of overuse and misapplication in our age, our understanding of what makes a real hero is dimmed and sometimes even silly. I’m sure Professor Holt would not have thought of himself a hero, but he is a paradigm of it to my mind.

His courage, intelligence, and supple leadership skills saved countless lives in his time and beyond. I remember the escape-and-evasion course I took during my Army training long after he left the service, and from that time onward I always considered it one of the best and most instructive experiences I had in preparation for what was to come. I had no clue about Professor Holt or his role in developing the life saving escape-and-evasion concepts.


My Favorite, Tom Pressly

Thanks for bringing back some really enjoyable nostalgia from my university days in the March 2013 issue. I drank many wines from Associated Vintners, and spent a summer in a damp and listing houseboat at the foot of Edgar Street. And what a great article about Professor Holt! As a history major, he and my favorite, Tom Pressly, taught many of my classes. I never knew most of his backstory. Keep those memories coming!

B.A., HISTORY, ’60

Wonder on the Water

The story on the Windermere Cup and the opening day of boating season in Seattle (May Magic, March) certainly captures the excitement of the event. There is nothing like it in rowing!

NAVY, ’62

Great Grapes

You missed a great winemaker that should be on your list of UW alums who have made a name for themselves in the wine business. Justin Neufeld (Molecular Biology, ’04) has worked for Chateau St. Michele in Woodinville, Glen Fiona in Walla Walla, as the Head Winemaker, and has now settled down in his hometown of Yakima as the Head Winemaker at Gilbert Cellars (named Washington Winery of the Year in the January 2013 issue of Compass Wines).


Houseboat Hijinks

Bonnie Nelson Powell’s essay Lake Life hit home with me, so to speak. In my final year (1958-59) at UW, a new face appeared in the composers’ lab at the music school. At the end of class we walked over to talk to each other. George Hubbard Miller, just out of the Air Force, said, “I just bought a houseboat on Lake Union for $600, come along and live in it.”

Well, I did. It was at, I think, 4412½ Fuhrman, just over the University Bridge (and down the hill from the original and only Red Robin) and between it and the I-5 bridge, which was just being built. What a din. The house sat on pilings and every boat’s wake lifted it up and dropped it back on the logs, causing the phonograph needle to find a new path across the record.

The neighbors farther out had a piano they didn’t want, so we built our own bridge from their house to ours, and “Hub” played Handel’s Water Music as we wheeled it across.

I became another New York composer, and Hub became a well-known dance accompanist and composer in Seattle until he died from cancer.

B.A., MUSIC, ’59

I read with fond memories of Lake Life (by Bonnie Powell). I attended several houseboat parties in the late-middle 1950s.

This is probably politically incorrect but one fact re: the Red Robin tavern is/was its ceiling. It was decorated with shower floor mats displaying upper female torsos.


Challenging Convention

I enjoy Columns very much and I was very interested in Michael Young’s article (Preserving the Power of Public Education, March). However, what struck me was that with all the resources a world-class university like UW has, that they are not focusing a significant part of those resources on fixing the education system that “everyone” agrees is broken.

Instead of focusing on just the UW and making it better and harder to get into, why not muster those resources to help collaborate with other universities to come up with an education system that improves the statistics that only 70 percent of high school students graduate and only 32 percent of those that graduate can “qualify” for college, any college, not just the very best colleges.

Let’s put those great minds at these universities to work to increase the high school graduation rate and create a technical/vocational education path for those severely needed talents that corporations are begging for that do not need a four-year college education.

Now that effort would be something President Young, the UW and all of us alumni would be proud of.


—Tom Stritikus, Dean, College of Education, responds: I could not agree more that UW’s resources should be focused to improve graduation rates and college access. UW researchers are actively collaborating with partners, like the Ackerley Partner School Network collaborators, to address the opportunity gap, especially at poverty impacted schools in our region. The UW Dream Project is doing incredible work to mentor first-generation and low-income students in King County high schools.


A few editing errors appeared in our Escape Artist story in the March issue. W. Stull Holt was 84 when he died, not 86; he received a Silver Star for World War I and a Bronze Star for World War II. Columns regrets the errors.

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