Office of the VP for Communications – Keeping alumni and friends connected to U-M

There’s always a sequel in the works

How has COVID-19 ravaged the globe?

Let me count the ways.

Holdship with face mask

Early version of “the mask.”

Since that would take far too long, I will do what Michigan Today’s resident historian James Tobin always recommends: Boil a big, huge story — a global pandemic, for instance — down to the “sheer ordinariness” of a single individual’s experience. It’s in the telling that one finds anything but sheer ordinariness.

This month I was told to suspend my freelance budget. That damn COVID-19 worked its way all through the University budget down to Michigan Today. In plain terms, I must bid farewell for now to columnists Victor Katch (Health Yourself), Frank Beaver (Talking About Movies), and, as fate would have it, Jim Tobin (Heritage). Ricky Rood, who debuted Climate Blue in Michigan Today less than a year ago, plans to stay on through the summer, gratis.

Imparting this news while sitting at my kitchen table during a global pandemic was an unexpected shift in my single individual storyline. Though devastated, I am doing my best to focus on the much-anticipated sequel when I can bring each of these writers back into the fold.

Hearing voices

Grad with mask at bush

Makarand Parigi says, “Finally got my (partially online) degree from the blue school!

There’s no denying the economy is in precarious shape. This week the Michigan News staff produced a webinar with some brilliant University economists. Prior to the event, I participated in QA testing as we explored the whiz-bang capacity of Zoom, Facebook cross-posting, and all manner of digital tomfoolery. It was the highlight of my week, as I cropped photos and pretended the voices I heard were coming from down the hall in the Michigan News building.

The photos I cropped appear in this month’s slideshow, Commencement under quarantine. I wanted to commemorate graduation and upon visiting the #mgograd site at Instagram, I  found some truly joyful photos of 2020 graduates and their loved ones.

I so admire the resilience this class has demonstrated, so I emailed the Instagrammers to ask permission for use. I was further uplifted by each sweet “Sure!” and “Of course, Deborah!” that I received. I congratulated them, told them how cute they looked in the pictures, and how funny I thought their captions were. To say I crave human interaction is an understatement. One email in, and I felt we would all be friends forever.

This is the third monthly issue of Michigan Today I have completed alone in my kitchen. While I am not super-keen on sitting in this wooden chair all day, I am blessed-beyond-belief to be working.

I would like to believe this whole kitchen-table career is simply a bad season in an otherwise decent Netflix series called my life. Next season has got to be way better, right? After binging this one, I found it has a bit too much “sheer ordinariness” for my taste.


  1. Chris Campbell - 1972 (Rackham),1975 (Law)

    I hope you can find a way to keep James Tobin connected. His first piece to captivate me was “Professor White’s Trees,” later revised as “Professor White’s Diag,” I think. Since then his name appearing as author has signaled something valuable.


    • Deborah Holdship

      I agree wholeheartedly.


  2. Henry Yee - 63 BSE 65 MSE

    I’ve enjoyed Michigan Today, so much so that I’ve submitted two suggestions for alumni articles; neither of which passed muster. I’m sorry to hear that COVID-19 caused cuts in the Michigan Today budget. I look forward to the day when it will be back at full strength.

    On-line meetings:
    My family meets once a month (Michigan, Maryland, Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina), and my wife’s family meets twice a month (Michigan, Texas, Oregon, Washington, California, North Carolina). Both use Zoom. Howard County in Maryland has switched to Cisco Webex, including the County Executive community meetings, because the IT department claims that it is more secure. We have Men’s Roundtable discussions at two senior centers (currently closed for quarantine) that were using Zoom, but switched to Webex at County suggestion. Our church has two weekly meetings on Zoom, but the Sunday sermon is on a one-way YouTube channel.


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