Holloway’s timeline is extraordinary. He was appointed president of Rutgers University — the largest college in New Jersey — in January 2020, just months before the onset of the pandemic. Then in late July that year he took the reins of a mostly barren campus, with students, faculty and staff practicing social distancing and remote-learning from their homes. That hammered the university’s budget, as revenue from parking, dining, housing, events and athletics all dried up.
Now everyone is coming back to campus, and Rutgers is the defendant in a lawsuit seeking to knock down its COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Although the U.S. Supreme Court in August said it would not block a similar mandate at Indiana University, the issue of vaccine mandates nonetheless remains a sensitive topic.
“He started under the most difficult of all circumstances, I mean, I can’t imagine a tougher way to start,” one person in the know said last year. “In a time when it’s very hard to meet people, he is meeting people, and as much as you can in this impossible environment, has hit the ground running. And that’s to his total credit.”
Many of the top minds advising Gov. Phil Murphy on the pandemic response hail from Rutgers. And the university has recruited participants for Pfizer’s vaccine trials on children 11 and younger. As a major economic engine across its three campuses in New Brunswick, Camden and Newark, and the source of a talent stream for the New York City metro area, Rutgers – with Holloway in charge — will play an increasingly important role in New Jersey’s economic and higher education landscape over the near future.