Remembering ‘Doc’

2023 began with some sad and unwelcome news: the passing of an RCC icon, “Doc” Holliday. Doc was my mentor. He took me under his wing and helped me to become an effective math tutor and teacher. But even more than that, he became my friend.

Surely Doc was an icon at our college. No one ever called him Frank, or Richard, or Mr. Holliday, or certainly not Professor Holliday. Just one “handle” identified him to everyone; when “Doc” was mentioned there was no need for further clarification, we all knew who was being spoken of.

Rogue Community College math instructor 'Doc' Holliday explains a math formula, circa 1993.
Rogue Community College math instructor ‘Doc’ Holliday explains a math formula, circa 1993.

Doc was a large man and just his size and his sometimes stern demeanor could cause him to be a bit intimidating. I’ve heard him described by some who faced him on the badminton court as a grizzly bear with a racquet. Doc may have loomed large on the other side of the badminton net, but he seldom displayed a threatening visage in the classroom. He welcomed questions, and always took time to answer them thoroughly. That is, unless someone asked Doc’s least favorite question, “Will we have to know this for the test?” Once you got to know this man, you soon realized that there was a teddy bear living beneath the grizzly bear’s fur.

One time in calculus class, Doc spent the entire session, without a pause, and used every board in the classroom, to explain a particularly difficult concept. At the end of the session, after having overloaded our minds with limits, Riemann sums and such, he shared with us an amusing incident that must have been an embarrassing moment for him at the time. It seems that years before, after Doc had first prepared this complex lecture, he was quite eager to bring it to his calculus students. He told us that after he finished making this presentation for the very first time, he turned from the board only to discover that he was standing before a classroom full of bewildered Intermediate algebra students! In his zeal to present the new lecture, Doc had confused his schedule and mistakenly thought he was in his calculus class! He welcomed our laughter at this anecdote. He wasn’t too proud to reveal his human side.

My first class at RCC was a math class with Doc in the mid-1980s. He ignited in me an interest in mathematics and the desire to teach it to others. When I finished that class and approached a counselor to inquire how I might volunteer to work in the Tutoring Center (it was the Learning Center back then), the counselor said, “Let’s go talk to Doc.” Doc was a bit reluctant to impose rules on a volunteer, but nevertheless, he let me know what would be expected of me; most of all, I would have to adhere to a schedule, so the students — his students — could know when to depend on me. He let me feel like I was independent of his supervision, but when he would occasionally take me aside and offer helpful advice to improve my interaction with the students, I realized I had been under his watchful eye all along. Doc’s reinforcing support motivated me to continue tutoring at RCC for more than 30 years.

Doc retired from teaching a few years before I did, and I missed having him to turn to when I would get a question I couldn’t answer. I would often bump into him at the grocery store, and he was always interested in how I was doing at RCC and would inquire about my wife, Nancy, who as an English tutor at RCC, was encouraged and mentored by Doc to also tutor math.

I can’t shed much light on Doc’s early career at RCC, but I know he was among the original instructors there and played a vital role in the development of RCC’s Math department. What I can speak about is what a positive impact Doc had on my life. He enabled me to fulfill my desire to teach. As a matter of fact, it was Doc himself who inspired that desire in me in the first place.

— Munroe Crutchley, retired tutor Wiseman Tutoring Center

Frank Richard “Doc” Holliday, 87, of Grants Pass died on Jan. 14, 2023, at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center.