Longtime Duke professor Holley dies

Aug. 19, 2013 @ 05:38 PM

Longtime history professor I.B. Holley, who spent more than six decades on the Duke campus, died last week.  He was 94.

One of the nation's leading military historians, Holley remained active in the classroom and in research even following his retirement in 1989. He still frequented Duke University Libraries and, until recently, still taught in the freshman seminar program, according to department chair John Martin. In 2008, at age 89, he published "The Highway Revolution, 1895-1925: How the United States Got Out of the Mud."
After receiving his degree at Amherst College in 1940, Holley served in the military and received his Ph.D. from Yale in 1947, the same year in which he joined the Duke faculty. During the 1970s and early 1980s, the U.S. Army sent a number of officers to Duke to study under Holley on their way to earning doctorates.
Holley remained in the Air Force Reserve until retiring as a major general in 1981. In 2008, the Air Force named an award after him to honor individuals who have made "a sustained, significant contribution to the documentation of Air Force history during a lifetime of service." The inaugural award went to Holley for his "decades of assistance, support and encouragement to military historians."
He wrote numerous books and monographs, most notably "The Transfer of Ideas: Historical Essays" (1968); "General John M. Palmer: Citizen Soldiers and the Army of Democracy" (1982); and "Ideas and Weapons" (1983).
A popular teacher, Holley received the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award in 1989 when he was 70.  He also was known for his service work, and in 2004 inspired an effort by Duke scholars to donate scholarly books, textbooks and journal articles to Iraqi university and college libraries, which suffered damage in the second Gulf War and previously under Saddam Hussein's rule.
Funeral arrangements are unknown.