John Holt

PhD'77, History and Philosophy of Religions

Mr. Holt answered these questions in the summer of 2013.  He joined the Alumni Council in the fall of 2012.

Why did you decide to pursue a degree at the University of Chicago Divinity School?

Because of its reputation in the field of history of religions and the resources of Regenstein Library.

What were the highlights of your Divinity School experience?

Taking courses in American religious history from Martin Marty, in theory and method from Jonathan Smith, and in the study of myth and ritual from Mircea Eliade.  I also truly appreciated being mentored by Joseph Kitagawa.  But the most outstanding experience was benefiting enormously by the encouragement, constructive and detailed criticisms, and passion for knowledge of a great dissertation adviser, Frank Reynolds.

What is your current job?  How did you get to this position?

I am currently William R. Kenan Professor of Humanities in Religion and Asian Studies at Bowdoin College.  Frank Reynolds recommended me for this position in 1978 and I was successful in my interview.

How did the program at the Divinity School and the wider University prepare you for your current work?

The Divinity School and the University turned me into a scholar and bred into me a work ethic that has persisted to this day.  Though the experience was not without an extraordinary amount of effort and sometimes intense feelings of anxiety, I learned how to respect the process of inquiry and to benefit from engaging it seriously.

What do you do in your non-professional life?

 Skiing in the mountains of Maine and canoeing in Maine's coastal waters remain the best way for me to navigate the psychological intensity of the academic year.

Why did you agree to serve on the Alumni Council?

I wanted to reconnect with the Divinity School and perhaps give just a little something back to the institution that made my own career possible.

Anything else you would like to add?

I'm still very enthusiastic about recommending Chicago to my best students who want to proceed to graduate study.