Photo credit: Melissa Henrie
President Matthew Holland often gets treated like a celebrity, on a pedestal above everyone else, when he is a typical guy with a job in high places.
“I am a normal guy. I’ve got a family; I love to play tennis, mountain bike, watch sports with my kids and to spend time with my kids. There is a whole life for me outside of the university life that people may not see that much,” Holland said.
Like most people, he has had his share of embarrassing moments. The first time he tried to give his wife, Paige, a kiss he was so nervous that the book he was reading was upside down. “So she knew something was amiss,” the president said.
He likes all kinds of music, from classical to rock. He loves the Krooners, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Elton John, Billy Joel and most recently Michael Bublé, to name a few.
Holland has eaten some crazy things, especially haggis, which he had while on his Latter-day Saint mission to Scotland.
He developed “quite a liking” to the dish, which consists of a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, mixed with oatmeal and spices, boiled in the stomach then “serve it while you listen to Robert Burn’s poetry,” he said.
Holland’s all time favorite ice cream is the classic pralines and cream.
The Utah County native loves books, which is apparent by the collection in his office and the excitement in his face when he says that he cannot choose just one as his favorite, but he can think about them in categories.
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, is his favorite piece of literature. In philosophy, he enjoys Plato’s Republic. He is fond of reading scripture, especially The New Testament and The Book of Mormon. He especially loves biographies.
“I consume biographies,” he said. “It’s really hard to pin one down, but if you push me it would probably be David Herbert Donald’s one volume biography of Abraham Lincoln.”
Holland’s humility is evident when he has to think about what makes him unique.
“I think I’m a hard worker. One of the things I know is that I’m not the smartest guy in the room. So if I’m going to accomplish anything, I’ll probably have to put in a little more time than other people do, at least that’s how I’ve seen it,” he said.
One of the main things he hopes UVU students know is how he feels about them.
“I want them to know how much I care about them and think about them. Not just as their president but as a neighbor, a friend, a community member…It’s not just some sort of professional responsibility, it’s something deep in my core that I care about that brought me to want to be here and will always leave me feeling very affectionately about this institution,” he said.
Holland has personal and family ties to Brigham Young University, but he has also developed a love for UVU.
“I loved how down to earth it was; I loved how friendly people were. I loved the mission of it; it was open and accepting to all sorts of people who otherwise might get left out of higher education…On lots of dimensions [BYU] can be a pretty exclusive place. For what it does, that’s good.
“I love so much about the BYU mission, but it was so refreshing for me to come to UVU, which has this openness, this access of people from all different backgrounds, levels of preparation and perspectives,” Holland said.
Until his senior year of college, he wanted to be a lawyer and be involved in the “high courtroom drama,” he said. After talking with several in the profession, he decided that it wasn’t really what he wanted to do.
“At some point, I realized my real love was the study of politics, philosophy and history,” Holland said.
Another love of his has always been teaching. While attending BYU, he was a teacher’s assistant, which he said was his favorite part-time job.
Before coming to UVU, Holland taught political science classes and American Heritage, the required course that most BYU students dreaded.
On the website Rate My Professors, his students said that while Holland’s American Heritage class was tough, his passion for the subject showed during his lectures and he made the material interesting.
“Loved the professor, loved the class, hated the exams. Dr. Holland is great. He gives a unique perspective on American history and lectures are thoroughly enjoyable. And any man secure enough in his masculinity to show his entire class a picture of himself in ‘man-jams’-those would be the one-piece, zip-up pajamas with the footies-has my respect,” said one student rating on the website.
Though Holland considers his current position as “an exciting and exhilarating time of life,” he admits that teaching is one of the things he has missed the most. Being an administrator couldn’t keep him out of the classroom for long though; he is teaching a senior seminar in political thought and has previously taught an ethics and values seminar.
“I try to stay in the classroom as much as possible…it’s the best part of higher education,” he said.
Holland loves living close to his job, which gives him easier access to still be a dad to his four children, who range from 16 to eight-years-old. Since he is the son of a former BYU president, he understands the toll his job can take on his family.
“I refuse to give up family time, so it’s a regular push and pull, and trade off. At times, my kids and my wife sacrifice and other times my colleagues sacrifice. I just try to keep that balance,” he said.
In an effort to maintain that balance, Holland tries to never be away from his family for more than two nights a week. Since there is always something he could be at there are events that he misses, but his family is more important to him.
The Holland family travels a little when they can. They enjoy visits to the president’s family roots in St. George and making occasional trips to Lava Hot Springs in Idaho as a little get away.