Photos courtesy of David Holmes
David Holmes, associate dean of curriculum and general education at Seaver College, will start as the Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee on Jan. 1, 2020.
While Holmes has left an impact on students, families, faculty and staff throughout his 26 years here at Pepperdine teaching in the Humanities and Teacher Education division, he said Pepperdine has also left an impact on him.
“I think Pepperdine has really modeled for me what it means to be a liberally-educated person in the sense of liberal arts,” Holmes said. “To be a person who’s been educated in liberal arts and because of your Christian perspective, you are about embracing everyone that God would embrace, but you’re also about engaging in disagreement and injustice in responsible and respectful ways.”
Journey to Pepperdine
As a Los Angeles native, Holmes said he was familiar with the South LA Pepperdine campus and started visiting the university in 1978 for youth festivals that Pepperdine held during Thanksgiving.
“I grew up in South Los Angeles so I was familiar with the old Pepperdine campus,” Holmes said. “I was just a high schooler around the time Pepperdine left to come [to Malibu].”
It wasn’t until 1993 that Holmes began as a visiting faculty member at Pepperdine while pursuing his Ph.D. in English with an emphasis in rhetoric and literature at the University of Southern California.
Holmes said he had the ability to partake in an Irvine Fellows program that allowed him to teach a few classes at Pepperdine with benefits.
After the fellows program and receiving his Ph.D., Holmes continued at Pepperdine while working on tenure track. He received tenure in 2003 and became a full professor in 2008, Holmes said.
Time at Pepperdine
Holmes has taught a variety of classes including courses on literature, rhetoric and film and courses such as first-year seminar, Great Books, English composition, rhetorical theory, composition theory, topics in literature and introduction to African-American studies.
But Holmes said one of his favorite classes he was able to teach was for Professor Joi Carr’s multicultural women’s literature class. One of the reasons he said he liked this class was because both the students and the topics were culturally diverse.
“We argued across political disagreements, ethic disagreements and so on, and there was no bitterness, and there was no shouting each other down,” Holmes said.
Holmes explained that within the class, they were able to have open and honest discussions.
Holmes’ former students said he was a thoughtful and insightful professor.
“I respected his opinion of my work greatly and always strived to demonstrate a certain level of mastery in my classes,” Sheean Hanlan, a Pepperdine 2019 alumna and editorial assistant for Holmes upcoming book, wrote. “I felt that in his own demonstration of mastery of his subject, he expected it from his students.”
Influence at Pepperdine Outside of the Classroom
Holmes not only influences his students at Pepperdine, but also other faculty and staff members like Professor Lorie Goodman at Pepperdine.
“He always makes me think, we will talk about what he’s working on and what I’m working on and he always inspires me to do more, to do something else and to add on,” Goodman said. “He’s very inspirational to me.”
Holmes (center) and 2019 rhetoric students at their Senior Thesis Presentation. Photo Courtesy of Sheean Hanlan.
During Holmes’ time here at Pepperdine, he has played a role in a number of groups on campus including Black Student Association, rhetoric-related clubs, a co-sponsor for Crossroads and a mentor for the Posse Foundation.
Holmes and his wife were also able to be the faculty family in 2006 for a semester in the London International Program.
“When you’re a faculty family, the students connect with you – well most of the students connected to my wife, which is understandable,” Holmes said. “But there was one student in particular who basically said to my wife and me, you’re in a way like the parents I never had.”
Holmes said the special moments at Pepperdine have been when he’s connected with students like they were his family. From students giving him a hard time, to ragging and bagging on him, to calling some of his students “daughter.”
Students also shared similar sentiments regarding Holmes.
“For me, Dr. Holmes was more than a professor, he was a father figure,” Hanlan wrote.
God’s Influence on Holmes’ Next Journey
Holmes is a lifelong member of the Church of Christ. He said he has been preaching since he was 15 and is very passionate about the Church of Christ history.
“God has interrupted my own plans with His own,” Holmes said.
He did not know that he was going to be leaving Pepperdine, but Holmes said he believes this is God’s doing.
Lipscomb University first approached Holmes about the position nearly two years ago, then again one year ago. Finally, they reached out again about six months ago.
It wasn’t until this last time that Holmes decided to apply.
“The reason why it was attractive is because we have a granddaughter who lives in Chicago, and Chicago is about an hour and a half flight from Nashville,” Holmes said.
However, Holmes said that is not the only reason why Lipscomb is attractive for him at this time.
“But there’s something that’s exciting to me about Lipscomb because it represents for me, the integration of my faith, and scholarship and professionalism,” Holmes said.
As a civil rights researcher, Holmes explained that he is excited to be in the South where most of civil rights comes from.
“Even though I am not from the South, I feel a connection to the South through my research,” Holmes said.
Holmes also has a “newfound interest” for academic administration.
“It’s about timing,” Holmes said. “I’ve read some research that has suggested that if one wants to be a dean, provost or president, the window is 50 to 65, and I’m 57.”
Holmes explained that both he and his wife are Los Angeles natives, but his wife has been wanting to leave Los Angeles for at least 12 years.
“All of those things I just mentioned, plus family, represent the package that is taking us down there,” Holmes said.
Holmes said this transition will be difficult for Holmes, faculty and staff, as well as students. Holmes explained he is a crier and thinks this transition is going to be harder for him than he thinks.
“It’s been a difficult decision because Pepperdine has helped me to grow, not only as a teacher and as a scholar, but I believe as a Christian,” Holmes said. “Even the challenging moments at Pepperdine have sort of brought me up to a different level of spiritual development.”
Holmes said his colleagues have become like brothers and sisters over the years.
Goodman said he always calls her “sister Goodman” and nobody else has ever called her that.
“He’ll be by the office talking to someone and he’ll just come over and give me a big hug,” Goodman said. “He’s just a friendly voice in your day, reaching out and I’m really going to miss that.”
The Dean’s Office is holding a celebration for David Holmes on Friday, Dec. 6, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Contact Brianna Willis at firstname.lastname@example.org