I walked into the office of Professor Ted Hollingworth not knowing what to expect, but within moments I knew that I was in for a treat. “I’m not the greatest thing that’s ever happened to Emerson,” he said, “I’m the strangest thing.” And I was hooked. You see, Prof. Hollingworth is a jack of all trades, a Renaissance man of sorts. With a resume that goes on for days, he’s a big picture kind of guy who has given a go at almost everything. Outside teaching, he has done consulting and training for everything from the MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit government sponsored think tank, to the D.A.R.E. program. He has been involved with projects regarding defense, government, technology, business and more. He even had top secret clearance from the U.S. government for 17 years.
Professor Hollingworth began his higher education at Dartmouth College. During his senior year he took a test which was supposed to reveal which career paths he was best fit to pursue. Ironically, teaching wound up on the bottom of that list. The fall after graduating Dartmouth, he enrolled in night school, but was soon drafted into the military. He became head of schools and a public speaker in the Second Army on North American defense. This is where Prof. Hollingworth really began his interest in communication. Because of the large population of Puerto Ricans in the military with no knowledge of English, he set up a school for language and culture. Here he taught for the first time, giving lectures on history. He seemed to really have a knack for it.
He had been groomed for the construction industry and was to take over the family business, but with the passing of his father, his direction changed course. Professor Hollingworth was offered a Ph.D. fellowship at Harvard University for history. He also met with the speech department chair Dr. Coleman Bender here at Emerson. After his introduction to Emerson, he decided to abandon his offer from Harvard and work toward his master’s degree at Emerson.
For Professor Hollingworth, Emerson was the best place to be. When he started here 49 years ago, he was immensely impressed by the ideals of Charles Wesley Emerson, the evolution of expression and a concentration on human communication. He loved that every student, regardless of major, was required to take classes in communication. He believed in the emphasis on speech and the intensive training for debate that Emerson provided all students.
It was not just the programs that Professor Hollingworth came to love, but the people, the faculty members, that taught and inspired him every day. The department was full of all-star teachers–no one was a “weak link.” Prof. Hollingworth especially admired Dr. Bender seeing him as not only a stellar educator, but a mentor as well. The department chair always had faith in him. Professor Hollingworth remembers when Dr. Bender called him into his office and asked him to teach an advanced course on pathology, a subject on which Prof. Hollingworth was not a self-proclaimed expert. Dr. Bender gave him a copy of the textbook, Training the Speaking Voice, and he got to work. Professor Hollingworth worked hard to stay a chapter ahead of the class every week. He would eventually take over the phonetics program and teach Dr. Bender’s classes himself. Now Prof. Hollingworth teaches Oral Communication at Harvard because, yes, they did want him back and he has been teaching there now for 29 years.
Dr. Bender had great faith in Professor Hollingworth. He would simply say “we need a course in ____” and Prof. Hollingworth would start new classes from scratch. This way he was able to learn subjects he would not have normally known about. He is a man with much knowledge on a variety of subjects rather than a concentration on just one area of study. He feels as if he is now a better teacher than ever and plans on teaching as long as he is capable and effective.
When I asked him what his proudest achievement was, I expected to hear one of his many personal accomplishments. Instead he so humbly answered with “the success of my students.” When Prof. Hollingworth’s students succeed at whatever they choose, he gets a sort of parental satisfaction. His priorities are his students, the college, the department, and then himself–in that order. His purpose is always to teach, to urge his students to make up their own minds and think for themselves.
And Professor Hollingworth himself is always thinking a lot. He is a constant reader and a great listener who has maintained an outstanding network. He is continuously concerned with preparing young people for a tumultuous future. A pragmatist, he is always trying to see what works and what doesn’t work. Professor Hollingworth loves to look at trends and the world at large with a systematic approach. He is currently doing a lot of advising and training, with no patience to simply sit and write.
Outside of the academic and business realms, Ted Hollingworth has a passion for antiques and fine art and he is actually a registered dealer himself. At home he enjoys carpentry and gardening, a hobby he shares with his wife. He also loves to spend time with his daughter (an Emerson alum), her husband, and their two beautiful daughters.
Professor Ted Hollingworth is certainly an anomaly. He has done so much in the world of business and communication, but his dedication is in his work here at Emerson College. His passion for teaching and genuine interest in his students shines through during every conversation he holds. And he had me smiling as I left our interview-turned-friendly-chat.
–Maggie Morlath (Political Communication Major and Student Contributor)