Colleagues, students remember 'Dr. Bob'

Category:  News
Thursday, March 4th, 2021 at 9:53 PM
Colleagues, students remember 'Dr. Bob' by Julia Carden
Contributed Photo, 2015

Dr. Robert W. Holderer, the Edinboro English professor many students knew as “Dr. Bob,” died on Feb. 17, at 70 years old. The English department stated on Facebook that “he had been in the hospital fighting COVID-19 and recently seemed to be making good progress toward recovery.”

Holderer served the university community for over 28 years. In addition to teaching, he was also director of the campus Writing Center for 15 years, where he mentored and assisted students. He stepped down from the latter prior to the Fall 2020 semester.

“I set up schedules, I hire tutors and train them. I also work with students as a writing consultant. I basically do everything that needs to be done here,” Holderer said in a 2017 feature story on the Center.

Holderer was admitted to Saint Vincent Hospital on Jan. 26.

“While he was able, he probably called me two times a day, asking about arrangements for his classes to be covered and his students to be taken care of. He was worried about his students. He just loved to teach,” said Dr. Mary Paniccia Carden, chairperson of the Department of English and Philosophy.

Despite his long fight with COVID-19, his death came as a shock to those who had been monitoring his progress. Over the weekend of Feb. 12, Holderer was moved to Select Special Hospital and began rehabilitation.

At the time of his hospitalization, Holderer also served as a Board of Trustees member for Bethesda Children’s Home in Meadville. He was an organist and the choir director of Erie’s New Hope Presbyterian Church, as well.

Before joining the English faculty at Edinboro in 1993, Holderer held several other academic positions. He was director of developmental programs at Barton County Community College, an associate professor of Spanish and English at Pillsbury College, and chair of the English and foreign languages department at Maranatha College.

“He was always kind and helpful, but he also had an unexpectedly wicked sense of humor. Not very many people know that he overcame a lot of hardship to get to the place he ended up. I admire him very much for that,” Carden added.

The Rev. Charles McClung, Holderer’s friend and retired pastor of New Hope, explained at his funeral service that Holderer’s colleagues knew him as someone who never lost the desire to learn. McClung added that the EU professor focused his own research on teaching strategies for both students with learning disabilities and those who spoke English as a second language.

“I worked with him for so many years … he was extremely dedicated to the students and always willing to help. He will be missed,” said former faculty member Carol Gleichsner. “Bob and I worked together for over 20 years as colleagues until I retired this past summer. His commitment to our students with academic challenges was especially commendable.”

“He made it enjoyable to log on to class every morning,” said senior English student Selaina Dragosavac. “I could tell he was so passionate about what he taught and he truly cared about each one of his students. I felt that he was more of a friend than a professor. He really wanted all his students to succeed … He was always cracking jokes and made sure to personally check on each of us to see how we were doing. He left lasting impressions on me, and I’m sad for all the students that will never get the chance to take one of his classes.”

Student Sam Bohen worked with Holderer at the Writing Center. “He was the director there my whole junior year. He was a very kind man who cared deeply about teaching and his students. I will always be grateful that he hired me,” he said.

Visitation hours and a short funeral service were held at Glunt Funeral Home and Crematorium on Feb. 21. According to the English department, an additional celebration of Holderer’s life will be held this summer.

Donations can be made in Holderer’s name to the Edinboro University Student Hardship Fund, a helpful resource for students who are in need of extra support.

You can also light a virtual candle to honor the memory of “Dr. Bob,” here.

Julia Carden is a staff writer for The Spectator. She can be reached at 

Disclaimer: Julia Carden is related to Dr. Mary Carden, quoted in this piece.

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