He may be a well-regarded longtime professor now, but 45 years ago, Jeff Hollar was a recent high school graduate unsure of his future.
While he graduated from Central High School in Woodstock in 1978, Professor Hollar had spent most of his life before that in Arlington, the son of a U.S. Naval senior chief petty officer who worked at the Pentagon for most of his career.
When he first graduated from high school, Professor Hollar hadn’t pinned down his purpose or direction. He spent some time volunteering with Woodstock Rescue Squad – starting when he was still in high school – and working for the U.S. Forest Service, which was a seasonal job. He enjoyed both of these endeavors, although a close call with a wildfire gave him second thoughts about the Forest Service.
“I knew I needed a long-term plan, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to college,” said Professor Hollar. “I wasn’t really confident in my abilities, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
Since he had enjoyed volunteering with the rescue squad, in 1980 Professor Hollar decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy to become a hospital corpsman. He was sent to Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois to begin his medical training after completing recruit training.
“It was like being in college,” Professor Hollar said. “They paid us to go to school from 8 o’clock to 5 o’clock.”
Since he was doing well academically, Professor Hollar was asked to become an educational petty officer and tutor his fellow students, which sparked something in him.
“It dawned on me, maybe I should be a teacher,” he said.
For the remainder of his four years in the Navy, Professor Hollar worked at a medical clinic in the Washington Navy Yard and attended field medical service school at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. A highlight of his service was a tour in Honduras in 1983, where he helped provide medical care to the local citizens.
“I felt like we did something positive,” he said.
When it was time to leave Honduras, a senior officer was directing the Marines to pack up a very large supply of c-rations, or high-caloric, ready-to-eat food for the service members. The plan was to later dump them into the ocean. Professor Hollar successfully convinced the officer to leave the food for the locals, recalling that the date was Thanksgiving.
“The irony was not lost on me at 23-years-old,” he said.
Deciding to follow his teaching aspirations, after his discharge from the Navy, Professor Hollar enrolled at James Madison University, taking with him some credits he’d earned at the University of Maryland and East Carolina University while still serving on active duty. After earning his bachelor’s degree in biology, Professor Hollar stayed at JMU for his master’s in biology.
He remained in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 1984-1990. Professor Hollar later earned a master of science degree in human anatomy and physiology instruction from New York Chiropractic College (now Northeast College of Health Sciences).
In 1990, Professor Hollar learned about the Japan Exchange and Teaching program. He spent the next 14 years teaching English and science in Asia, with one of those years in China and the rest of his time spent in Japan. It was in Asia that he met his wife, Seung Hee Han, who hails from Korea.
After his mother died, Professor Hollar and his wife-to-be at the time, came to Virginia to help care for his father. Eighteen years ago, he was hired by Laurel Ridge as an adjunct professor, becoming full time two years later.
Professor Hollar initially taught biology, but now solely teaches anatomy and physiology. He also taught yoga classes when a physical education or health credit was required for each associate degree, obtaining his yoga level I and II, and stress management teacher training at Yogaville in Buckingham County. He found the two levels of yoga class he taught at Laurel Ridge to be very fulfilling.
“It was clear to me that students needed a way to deal with their stressors,” said Professor Hollar. “I realized the benefit that they got out of that. It’s transformative.”
Professor Hollar is leading twice-weekly free yoga classes to the Laurel Ridge community since the in-person credit yoga classes have not had enough students enroll to make the last two semesters.
His students are what Professor Hollar, who received the Distinguished Faculty Award in 2019, most enjoys about working at Laurel Ridge.
“What motivates me to come and do what I do every day are the students and their stories,” he said. “We’re here to make a difference in these people’s lives. Think about how many people they’re going to go on and touch in their lives. It’s the students and what they overcome on a daily basis. Every student has got a story. When I started hearing many of them, I thought, ‘wow.’”
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.