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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University June 13, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 37
Obituary: Fred Holborn, 76, "Heart and Soul" of SAIS American Foreign Policy Program

Fred Holborn with several of his Crisis Simulation students in March 1999.

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 internship program."

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 music."

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 irreplaceable."

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 forgotten."

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 championship.

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 1998.

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, IL 60615.

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 (indicate "Holborn Fellowship" in the comment line). Inquiries may be directed to or 202-663-5630.


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