Jim Hollensteiner today

A year across the pond

In August 1951 Jim Hollensteiner came to Exeter (University College of the South West as it was then) for a year's exchange.

Originally from Illinois, Jim visited Exeter for a year as part of an exchange programme with DePauw University in Indiana following encouragement from his Professor. The journey across the Atlantic took around six days and he was accompanied by a fellow DePauw student who was undertaking an exchange at the University of Grenoble.

He says: “While waiting to board the ship, we got talking to an elderly gentleman. He turned out to be MP Alan Lennox-Boyd and he was very kind to me during my year, organising a personally guided tour of the Houses of Parliament, and arranging for me to spend a weekend at Powderham Castle. It was a good start!

“When I got to the UK, it was a bit of a culture change. Quite a bit of bomb damage remained and food was still rationed – one egg a week, very little meat, limited candy, and a small tin of sugar to add to oatmeal that was normally lumpy! However there were other new foods I took a liking to – shepherd’s pie, Cornish pasties, even rough cider.

“The classes were also different, we were expected to do a lot more self-study and encouraged to be much more individualistic in our viewpoints. Two events that occurred during my year that added to my experience were the death of King George and a national election where Labour replaced the Tories. This led to lots of interesting debates and discussion.”

At DePauw Jim was a serious sportsman, never losing an individual track running race during his time there, playing American Football for the Little State team, and also being part of the freshman basketball team. He put this talent to good use during his year in Exeter.

He says: “I played a lot of sport and made many good friends quickly through a variety of teams. My roommate was an excellent footballer and bowler on the cricket team and he introduced me to the rugby captain. Having never played rugby before I picked up a few penalties while learning the rules, but ultimately ended up in the first team – I guess the American Football experience paid off! Basketball was not a major sport in the UK, but we had an unusually good team made up of three Americans, one Canadian and one Brit and we beat some good teams. Including St Luke's, which was a major accomplishment!

Jim in his rugby kit and with the 1952 Rugby team (inset top right).

“There was no Athletic Department at Exeter at this time so for the most part we arranged our own matches, travel and finances. For major matches with other universities, the rugby team tended to travel with the football, netball and hockey teams, and the trip home almost always included a stop at a pub for a beer and a game of darts.”

As his year in Exeter came to an end, keen sportsman Jim couldn’t resist making his way to the 1952 Olympics in Finland. He travelled to Brussels where he met up with his old DePauw friend from the transatlantic boat and from there they hitch-hiked their way to Helsinki.

“One of my friend’s Grenoble classmates had a home there where we could stay in the basement.” Jim says. “The family was quite wealthy and upstairs they hosted receptions for people like Swedish and Norwegian royalty. This was the first year that athletes from Iron Curtain countries took part and the outstanding achievement was Emil Zátopek, a Czechoslovakian who won the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon. He is still the only person to win all those races in the same Olympic Games.”

Jim returned to DePauw in August 1952 and graduated in 1953. He then attended Northwestern University’s Business School, gaining his MBA in 1955 before starting work at the United States League of Savings Institutions as a Research Assistant. He rose through the ranks throughout his career, retiring as Executive Vice-President in 1988. During that time he was responsible for many improvements to the products and services of financial institutions.

“Despite being more than 60 years since I attended Exeter, I still have a close relationship with many former classmates and the University itself. My wife and I have visited several times for reunions and also planted two trees on campus – one in honour of my room-mate who died much too soon, and another for a Professor of Biology.” says Jim. “Two of my children also spent a year there as part of their studies and I’m always keen to hear the news from campus.”

As well as planting trees for his old friends, Jim has also honoured another of his classmates, John Dunford who was the 1st XV Rugby Captain during Jim's time at Exeter. Since 2015, thanks to the support of Jim and his wife Wanda, the 1st XV Rugby Player of the Year receives the John Dunford Award in recognition of their accomplishments. John, who captained the team from 1950-52 remained heavily involved with the University into his 70s in teaching and research capacities, and this award is a wonderful way to recognise his contribution. Recipients have included Exeter Chiefs and Scotland International, Sam Skinner.

A few newspaper clippings from Jim's time at Exeter.

Date: 4 December 2018

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