Frederick Holborn, senior adjunct professor of
American foreign policy at
SAIS, died June 3
at his home in Washington, D.C., of arteriosclerotic
cardiovascular disease. He was 76.
A faculty member for more than three decades, Holborn
was an expert on American foreign policy, crisis
management, domestic influences on foreign policy, and the
U.S. Congress and foreign policy.
At SAIS, he was famous not only for his formidable
teaching skills and the Crisis Simulation seminars he
conducted for decades but for the biennial election night
parties he hosted. "The event featured the ubiquitous $2
Rolling Rock beers, cold pizza, live CNN coverage on
multiple TV screens and our very own in-house political
analyst — the professor himself," wrote alumnus Kurt
Reiman, '97, in a tribute to Holborn in the January 1999
issue of SAISPHERE. "It was not enough for him just to
teach a few classes and sit on a few committees. He also
gave each and every SAIS student an informal, educational
and enjoyable window on the American political machine,
and, in the process, raised some money for the summer
In the same article, John Sulski, '97, wrote of a
Strategic Studies trip he had taken with Holborn in 1996.
Sitting next to him in a steam-powered catapult, about to
be launched off the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, Sulski
had his first opportunity to exchange a few words with the
well-known professor. "After proper introductions, some
enthusiastic belt-tightening and about two 'G's'
[G-forces], the professor and I got to know each other
well," he wrote. "Overcoming both engine noise and
protective headgear, we conversed at the top of our lungs
on topics ranging from the SAIS curriculum to classical
At the school's commencement ceremony on May 26,
Holborn received The Johns Hopkins University Founder's
Award, which recognizes individuals who have made
exceptional contributions to the school.
"Professor Frederick Holborn's devotion to our
students and his contributions to the school were
extraordinary," Michael Mandelbaum, Christian A. Herter
Professor and director of American Foreign Policy, said
last week. "He was the heart and soul of the American
Foreign Policy Program for many years. He is
This past year, Holborn was very involved in the
planning of the SAIS 60th anniversary celebration and, at
the time of his death, was in the midst of writing a
history of SAIS. An abridged version was published for the
gala celebration held in October 2004.
"Fred's love for students reached beyond the
boundaries of the classroom," said Dean Jessica Einhorn.
"Over the past two years, Fred took on the additional
responsibility of student academic advising as well as the
acting directorship of the American Foreign Policy Program
during the 2004-2005 academic year while Professor
Mandelbaum was on leave of absence. Fred Holborn stood out
as an exceptional and inspirational example for all of us
at SAIS and will be greatly missed, though not
A great supporter of Johns Hopkins lacrosse, Holborn
had traveled to Philadelphia the weekend before his death
to see his beloved Blue Jays capture the national
Born July 9, 1928, in Heidelberg, Germany, Holborn was
raised in New Haven, Conn., after his family fled the
country in 1934. His father, Hajo Holborn, was a professor
in the History Department at Yale and also an early faculty
member of SAIS.
Graduating from Harvard in 1949, Fred Holborn took a
position as a management intern with the Department of the
Interior and the Displaced Persons Commission in
Washington, D.C. He returned to Harvard as a fellow at the
Littauer Center from 1953 to 1957, receiving a master's
degree in public administration. From 1954 to 1959, he was
a teaching fellow in government at Harvard and an
instructor in political science at MIT.
He served as a legislative assistant to Sen. John
Kennedy from 1959 to 1961, as a special assistant in the
White House from 1961 to 1966 and then worked in the
offices of the attorney general and undersecretary of
state. In 1968-69, he was on the staff of the President's
Task Force on Telecommunications Policy while also
associated with the Washington Center of Foreign Policy
Research to undertake a study treating the changing role of
the White House staffs, principally in foreign policy,
since World War II.
He joined the teaching staff at SAIS in 1971 and
officially retired as a full-time professor in December
During most of this period, he was a consultant to
Congress and the Congressional Fellowship Program of the
American Political Science Association. He served as acting
director of the AMA program in 1976-77, and later directed
its Foreign Affairs Fellows program. An aficionado of
music, he was secretary of the Washington Performing Arts
Society from 1970 to 1991 and at the time of his death was
chair of its Program Committee.
At SAIS, Holborn taught Conduct of Foreign Policy,
Congress and Foreign Policy, Domestic Determinants of
Foreign Policy and American Foreign Policy 1914-1945.
Together with the then co-directors of SAIS' Security
Studies Program, he founded the school's annual crisis
exercise and seminar, which have become a major school
activity. He annually co-directed an intensive seminar
course, The American Political Process and Foreign Policy,
for foreign diplomats stationed in Washington.
Holborn is survived by his sister, Hanna Holborn Gray,
president emerita of the University of Chicago.
Internment will be private. A memorial service will be
held at SAIS after the start of the fall semester, when
his beloved students and faculty colleagues will have
returned to Washington. Letters of condolence can be sent
to Dr. Hanna Holborn Gray, 4950 Chicago Beach Dr., Chicago,
Friends and alumni have already pledged more than
$30,000 to establish a Frederick Holborn Memorial
Fellowship. They are hopeful that this fund will reach at
least $100,000 in contributions so that they may establish
an endowment that will provide a Fred Holborn Fellowship
annually, in perpetuity. Contributions can be sent to the
Fred Holborn Fellowship, c/o Suzanne Henderson, SAIS, The
Johns Hopkins University 1740 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.,
Suite 222, Washington, DC 20036. Checks should be made
payable to Johns Hopkins University, noting "SAIS: Fred
Holborn Fellowship" in the memo line.
Gifts also may be made online at
www.sais-jhu.edu/giving (indicate "Holborn Fellowship"
in the comment line). Inquiries may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or