Peter Holland, McMeel Family Professor in Shakespeare Studies in the Department of English and the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre, was recently elected an honorary fellow at Trinity Hall, his alma mater and one of the 31 colleges that comprise the University of Cambridge.
“It is always gratifying to see your colleagues celebrated for their achievements,” says John McGreevy, I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, who named Holland associate dean for the arts last year. “In this case, I am especially pleased, as Peter’s excellence as both a scholar and an administrator has truly made Notre Dame a stronger university.”
An internationally regarded Shakespearean scholar, Holland describes his accolade from Trinity Hall as “the greatest honor I’ve ever received.”
That’s saying a lot given the competition. His resume includes tenures as director of The Shakespeare Institute in Stratford–upon–Avon and as president of the Shakespeare Association of America, and he is just the fourth editor in the history of the prestigious annual journal Shakespeare Survey.
So what makes this distinction stand out? Holland, who has been a member of the Notre Dame faculty since 2002, says it would be akin to receiving an honorary degree from a university if, rather than conferring several annually, the school awarded only one every two to three years. To that point, he notes that Trinity Hall has recognized approximately 20 people in this way—Stephen Hawking among them—since 1969 when he enrolled as a student.
“Part of why it’s so thrilling to be elected an honorary fellow,” Holland adds, “is that you’re elected not by people within your discipline but by a group of people who from any position, any academic background, can see that you have achieved a standing in your discipline that warrants this honor. That’s quite something.”
Holland completed both his undergraduate and doctoral studies at Trinity Hall and joined its faculty upon receiving his Ph.D., spending a total of 28 years there before taking over as director of The Shakespeare Institute in 1997. One of his former students, Nicholas Hytner, the acclaimed artistic director of the National Theatre in London, was previously named to the cohort of honorary fellows, all of whom have some connection to the college, whether as alumni or otherwise.
“Almost half my life was at Trinity Hall,” Holland says. “And now 13 years away from it, it’s still absolutely central to my being. Notre Dame people understand that, that way in which we care about an institution.”
He traveled to England in October for a larger than usual induction ceremony as three others—Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Colin Rimer, Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, and Professor Edmund de Waal—were also formally installed as honorary fellows.
“Along with the new outstanding students and the new [faculty], we signed ‘the book’—the college register—in our new categories,” he says.
Describing the significance of this register, which is a running record of every student, scholar, and faculty member who has been part of Trinity Hall since its founding in 1350, Holland considers the various points in his life at which he’s signed it.
“And this was the last time because there’s nothing else left,” he says, punctuating the observation with a contented laugh.