Sylvea Hollis, November 11, 2020 (video)


Sylvea Hollis, November 11, 2020 (video)




Sylvea Hollis was raised in Birmingham, AL. After high school, she remained in the South and attended the University of Montevallo where she earned a bachelor’s degree in History. In 2004, Hollis enrolled in the Cooperstown Graduate Program in pursuit of a career working in museums and moved to New York. Post-graduate school, she returned home to work for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where years earlier she developed her love for museum work as an intern. In 2008, after working several jobs in the museum field, Hollis decided to recommence her academic journey and started toward a doctoral degree at the University of Iowa. In 2020, Dr. Hollis works full time as an Assistant Professor at the Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland.

During her interview, Sylvea looks back on her time as a graduate student in Cooperstown. Her recollections range from her first encounters with snow to the tragic passing of former Professor Langdon Wright during her first week of classes. Her accounts are honest, heartbreaking, and extremely funny at times. Throughout the interview, it is apparent that her time in Cooperstown was important to her personal and professional development and has had a positive impact on her life beyond the village.

This interview occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic, and, as a result, I interviewed Dr. Hollis remotely via Zoom. Hollis was at her home in Harrington, VA. She is in the midst of culminating the fall semester at Montgomery College.

I have placed in quotations conversations between Dr. Hollis and those who she came in contact with during her time in Cooperstown. These are all from the memory of Hollis and are not direct quotes. I have also placed in quotations the thoughts she remembers having. Although Hollis grew up in the deep South, her accent is mild. Yet, she does speak quickly with a modest southern drawl. It is impossible to reproduce Hollis’s dialect, as well as the dynamism and energy with which she speaks, and therefore researchers are encouraged to consult the audio recordings.


Jimmy Nunn Jr.


Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta




Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY


151 mB




Moving Image




Harrington, VA


Jimmy Nunn Jr.


Sylvea Hollis


Harrington, VA
Cooperstown, NY


SH = Sylvea Hollis
JN = Jimmy Nunn Jr.

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

So what were some of your other interests while you were in grad school?

Like academic?


I loved history. Loved it. So Lanny [Wright], the guy I told you a little bit about at the beginning. I met him on my interview weekend. He taught our research seminar for the first semester. I can’t remember what we call it. Before you start taking your core classes, you have to do an intensive seminar on how to write, how to research, what this is going to look like. All of that. So he taught that for us on research. It was like a week or two weeks. I think it was just a week. And I’ll never forget his example of what is a grammatically correct and perfect topic sentence. Meaning the first sentence of each paragraph tells you what the paragraph is going to be about. And he said a perfect topic sentence is “Woodrow Wilson was a racist prig” [laughs]. He went through and he was like, “This is perfect.” It’s got a subject. It describes what kind of person he was and explains the presidency. You know like President Woodrow Wilson was a racist prig. I just died. I thought it was the most hilarious thing ever. He had a great sense of humor. I couldn’t wait to take his social history classes. At the end of our first week, we were supposed to have a major party. Everyone does it the Friday before you transition into your classes and it was September 10, 2004. I’d had problems with my check for the university. I don’t remember. I was supposed to get some check and I remember having problems. That was the first day because we had so much stuff scheduled. That was the first day I could go talk to Oneonta to say, “Hey, where’s my money, what’s going on?” So I drove to Oneonta, met with them about the check, got that cleared up. I’m driving back the same route that I took going out and I saw a crazy detour. It’s not that many routes to get from Cooperstown to Oneonta. I saw an insane detour and I’m new there. I don’t know. I’m new driving around Upstate New York and now you’re sending me all these other places. Everywhere I tried to go as a detour was taken. It was like ambulances, cops, everything. Like all over the place. Cars for roads. As I’m driving back, I kid you not, I don’t know why I thought, “This is a major car accident and we lost someone from CGP.” I thought that as I’m driving back. Also, I’m kind of activated because I just [lost] my grandmother before I moved up. So like my grandmother died two weeks before I move up, so I’m just like anxious about death in general. Somehow, I’m just like, “We lost someone.” [laughs] It’s not funny. I was uncomfortable, you know. We lost someone. So I’m driving and all of a sudden I’m crying because I am convinced that we lost someone and now I’m trying to figure out who we lost, right? I’m literally driving from Oneonta to the party. So I get to the party and as I’m walking up, three of my classmates meet me at my car and they look very serious and it becomes apparent to me. The thing, my angst, my fear. It wasn’t even knowing. It was a deep not knowing and fear. They told me there was a devastating, horrible car accident. I don’t remember if it was a drunk driver or someone on drugs, but somebody crossed over the median and hit Lanny head on with his wife in the car. His wife, I had met her before too. She was an amazing person. She had some kind of a neurological, chronic disorder that was debilitating. It’s kind of like MS, but it was worse than MS. He was taking her back and forth to the hospital all the time for treatments and so she survived and he died on contact. I know that’s a long answer, but it was devastating. I often times think that my favorite class at Cooperstown would have been the class I didn’t get to take. It would have been Lanny. Everything about the guy.


Track 1 - 04:59

Bit Rate/Frequency

3.72 mbps

Time Summary

Track 1, 00:02:33 - Cooperstown




Jimmy Nunn Jr., “Sylvea Hollis, November 11, 2020 (video),” CGP Community Stories, accessed November 29, 2021,