Frederick Allen Holliday II, assistant professor of literature and performing arts, died after a short battle with cancer on Wednesday, June 17, at his home. He was 39.
Fred Holliday joined the faculty at American University in fall 2008 with a joint appointment in the Departments of Literature and Performing Arts, teaching two sections of Critical Approach to the Cinema and American Society on Stage and Screen. His academic interests included the aesthetics of story and style in film and television, Asian cinema, and screen adaptations of Shakespeare's Hamlet. He was working on a book about film remakes for Wallflower Press.
Michael Wenthe, a colleague in literature, writes that Fred "hated the idea of leaving his students behind and missing their time together in the classroom. He truly stayed in the classroom as long as his body would allow him, and when he became confined to hospital beds he turned his rooms at hospitals, hospice, and finally at home into intimate classrooms where conversations were often like tutorials in the films, books, and television series he loved and worked on. He was always eager to hear about life back at AU, where he is dearly missed."
Despina Kakoudaki writes, "I am very happy that I met Fred even for just this last year, we had such great conversations together. I loved his enthusiasm about cinema, film and media studies, new media, television, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spielberg, contemporary film, serial narratives, and a whole slew of other related and unrelated topics. He was a devoted teacher and absolutely loved his students at AU. He would tell us all the time about how much fun he was having with his students. I still feel that I may see him any time I go into the literature lounge, and that he would have a great story to tell me. He was a generous, thoughtful, energetic scholar and teacher, and we will really miss him."
Another colleague, Jeff Middents, writes, "Fred was really an amazing guy, incredibly sweet, and made quite the impression on us. I am not the only one who sometimes has to remind myself that I only met him in September. He was a true cinephile—which, in our field, means that he was more than an academic, he was devoted to media studies. We connected well the first time we encountered each other, primarily because while I have only written one academic article on the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he wrote an entire dissertation on the topic. He was starting on some very interesting work on the concept of series films (like Indiana Jones, etc.) that, quite frankly, I would have found very useful for some of the work I am currently doing. His students were also very devoted to him, as I found firsthand when I took over his class. Those of us who knew his smiling face in the literature lounge on a near-daily basis will miss him very much."
Caleen Jennings remembers Fred as her former student, having taken playwriting when he was here doing his master's degree. She writes that he was "curious, generous, hard working, and wickedly witty." She recalls sitting over coffee in the Katzen Café last fall as he talked through an idea he had for a play. "It was daring, complex, and exciting," she writes. "It was so intellectually stimulating to exchange ideas as colleagues and creative writers." Fred brought his son Freddie to see Caleen's children's play, Chem Mystery, last fall. It was Freddie's first play, and Fred took the time to e-mail Freddie's comments on the show. "It was such a thoughtful thing to do, and my students and I appreciated it so much. Equally important, Fred and Freddie's feedback have shaped ideas for my next children's play," says Caleen. "I speak for all of Fred's colleagues in the DPA when I say that he will be greatly missed."
John Douglass also remembers Fred Holliday as his student quite well, "not only for his skill as a writer of both drama and comedy, but because he knew 50 years of Oscar winners and who should have won! He had a strong desire to teach and thus went on for his PhD. I was delighted when he dropped by my office to tell me he had returned to American as faculty. He was a wonderful man and will be missed."
Pat Aufderheide writes, "From his days as a graduate student in the School of Communication, Fred Holliday was a dependable source of insight on and passion for film. He was fascinated by what makes popular culture work, and he was unafraid to demonstrate his own enthusiasm. We will miss him terribly, and we grieve for his family."
Fred's students recall his passionate and knowledgeable grasp of his subject matter and the always interesting class discussions. One of his students writes, "Dr. Holliday was a great professor. I had him my first semester at AU for Critical Approach to the Cinema. He was very warm and welcoming, and I could tell he had a passion for his work. He was so knowledgeable and taught me so much about film. He was also very funny and kept the class entertained. I enjoyed him so much that I signed up for his class the following semester, American Society on Stage and Screen. He was a truly special professor, and he will be missed."
Frederick Holliday graduated from Frostburg State University with a bachelor of science in theatre. He attended Oklahoma State University for one year working toward a master's degree in film studies, which he completed at American University. He went on to complete a doctorate of film studies from the University of Kansas. He had taught as a professor of film studies at Carroll County Community College in Westminster, Towson University, and the University of the District of Columbia before coming to AU.
Expressions of sympathy may be directed to Ivymount School, Attn: Nicole, 11614 Seven Locks Road, Rockville, MD 20854. Condolences may be sent to the family at newmanfuneralhomes.com. A faculty reading will be held in his honor on September 23.
"That's part of your problem, you haven't seen enough movies. All of life's riddles are answered in the movies." —Davis (Steve Martin), Grand Canyon, from Frederick Holliday's e-mail signature