Reporter 442, 8 November 1999


Resolution adopted by the Senate (20 October 1999) on the retirement of
Professor Michael Holman

Michael Holman went up to Lincoln College, Oxford, as an open exhibitioner in 1960. Intercalating a year at Leipzig University in 1962-63, he graduated with a first in modern languages (German and Russian) in 1964. In 1966 he entered the Department of Russian Studies at Leeds as a lecturer, and went on to become a senior lecturer, before attaining a developmental chair in 1990.

Michael was a gifted teacher with a special talent for communicating the intricacies of Russian grammar and syntax to a grateful audience. He introduced and managed the teaching of Bulgarian language and literature as an optional element within the Russian Studies degree, co-authoring Teach Yourself Bulgarian (1993) and other teaching aids. His enthusiastic lectures on Tolstoy arose from a long-term research interest in Tolstoy, his works and his influence on the wider world. Michael was instrumental in discovering and obtaining for the Brotherton Library a remarkable collection of manuscript and printed materials about the Tolstoyan movement in Britain, which provided a basis for some of his publications. Particularly keen on the problems faced by translators, Michael was instrumental in establishing the very successful Leeds MA in Applied Translation Studies. He is heavily involved in the organizing committee for the biennial ITI International Conference on Literary Translation, and has published on translation and transliteration theory and practice as a background to numerous English translations, pride of place among which is occupied by Wild Tales (1979) a collection by the Bulgarian writer Nikolai Haitov. In 1995 he was awarded a DLitt honoris causa by Sofia University.

An excellent linguist, fluent in Russian, Bulgarian, German and French, Michael has been an assiduous arranger of academic links between the University of Leeds and sister institutions in the former East Germany, Bulgaria and Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, as well as sitting on national committees coordinating undergraduate links with the USSR, and selecting postgraduates for scholarships to Eastern Europe. His outstanding contributions in this field were recognized by the receipt of the ‘Ehrennadel’ of Leipzig University in 1977 and the Order of Cyril and Methodius for the promotion of cultural and academic links between Bulgaria and Britain in 1987. He will be long remembered by alumni and colleagues alike for the tremendous amount of work he did over many years to smooth the way for exchanges, steering generations of students with a fatherly concern through the reefs of visa problems, delayed and missed flights, diplomatic crises and non-congruous academic systems.

Responding positively to the post-Robbins financial climate Michael worked enthusiastically and successfully to attract external finance. He succeeded in extracting large amounts for an arts department from established funding bodies (the first round of the HEFCE Slavonic and East European lectureships and the Reuter Foundation Media lectureship). He pursued numerous initiatives to develop links with business in this region. With colleagues in Moscow University he participated as programme director and general editor in compiling a video-based Russian language course which is now distributed worldwide, and played an important role in a joint venture between the Russian Foreign Economic School and our Environment Centre to develop a Russian CD-ROM environmental distance learning course for managers in the former Soviet Union. This project attracted £120,000 from the Environment Know How Fund. Subsequently he became director and chairman of DDO, a University company set up to market the material (1997). In response to the University’s successful bid for post-Soviet HEFCE funding, resulting in three lectureships, Michael established the Leeds University Centre for Russian, Eurasian and Central European Studies (LUCRECES). He is now heavily involved with providing interpreting and cultural advice for Russian prison governors within a Council of Europe project aimed at know-how transfer and prison twinning between the UK and the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Active in many central University bodies including the Academic Development Committee, Michael was entrusted with the complex restructuring task of welding the modern language departments, whose various idiosyncracies had developed independently over many years, into a coherent single resource centre, the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. Before his retirement an administrative structure, School office and reformed budget system had been successfully put in place.

We wish Michael, his wife Dorothea and their two girls well as a new and exciting period opens in their lives.

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