Member Spotlight: Chris and Rob Holo
Name: Christine and Rob Holo
Member Since: 2013
Membership Level: President's Circle
Chapter: East Coast
Job Title: Rob is a partner in the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; Chris is a board volunteer with the National Council of Jewish Women, New York.
Tell me how you first got involved with the Caltech Associates and why supporting Caltech is important to you.
Our first introduction to the Caltech Associates was attending one of the New York events where a Caltech professor spoke about his research. We had the opportunity to meet other members of the extended Caltech family—professors, trustees, alumni, parents, and friends—and the actual talk by the professor (and subsequent talks that we have attended) just completely blew us away. The research is so amazing and the professors are so enthusiastic, eloquent, brilliant, and skilled at talking to both scientists and non-scientists in the audience that we immediately wanted to become more involved.
Supporting Caltech is important to us for a few reasons. Most obviously, we want to support the school because our son, Sam, is a recent alum—he actually graduated this June—and it is our way to thank Caltech for providing him with a magnificent education. Secondly, we both want to support the actual research being undertaken at Caltech. The projects—ranging from geology to astrophysics—are utterly amazing and we want to help support that in our own small way. We also understand that the federal government is not always going to be there to support basic scientific research, so the contributions of private citizens are going to become more and more important. Finally, we want to help other students receive the same world-class education that our son received, irrespective of their financial means.
While we make various contributions to Caltech and to the Associates, our largest contribution has been to perpetually fund a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). This is particularly meaningful to us because the summer research opportunities, which our son was able to participate in for several summers, are perhaps one of the most unique and exciting aspects of a Caltech undergraduate experience. He was able to work with professors in different fields every summer and on the cutting edge of science and technology. Those summer experiences helped him determine what field he wanted to pursue and gave him opportunities to work on truly exciting, innovative, and unique research. By funding a SURF, we hope to help ensure that future generations of Caltech students have that same sort of amazing research opportunity.
What do you wish other people knew about the Caltech Associates/Caltech? Or what do you enjoy the most about being part of the Caltech Associates?
We wish that other people knew that being involved with the Caltech Associates provides a really amazing learning experience that we probably couldn't get anywhere else. Several times a year, we get to meet, hear lectures by, and learn from professors who are leaders in their fields. Hearing about Mars from Ken Farley, the project scientist for the Mars 2020 mission, and learning about Planet Nine from Mike Brown, the astronomer who killed Pluto, is amazing—and it is fun! Also, we have met lots of nice people and have enjoyed learning about the career paths various alums have taken. For those potential Associates members who are parents of Caltech students, being a member is a great way to get a sense of what your child is learning. It allowed us to stay in touch, at least a bit, with the experiences that our son was having while a student.
Outside of your involvement with the Caltech Associates and serving on the East Coast Committee, what do you do?
We both serve as board members with New York–based charitable organizations. Chris is a board member of the New York chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women, where she also runs a literacy program on the Lower East Side. Rob is a board member of the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center in the Bronx.
Do you have a favorite Caltech memory/story/moment?
Our son has shared many wonderful memories, both academic and personal, from his time at Caltech. These range from the elation of successfully completing research, to the excitement of presenting his findings at a huge geology conference, to the fun of the GPS department's Hawaii trip.
One of our fondest memories is when we first spoke to Sam about the research he was doing. He proudly, clearly, and articulately explained his work, and while he was thoughtful about bringing the description down to a non-technical level, we still barely understood any of the details or nuances. While this may sound like we just aren't that adept, which may be true, we were also amazed and proud of what he has learned at Caltech. He now has great knowledge of technical science, has gained fluency in skills such as coding and advanced math, and has achieved confidence in his ability to engage in scientific endeavors and the ability to convey his knowledge in an articulate manner. Just hearing him talk proved to us that he was at the right school; in fact, we knew it was the only place for him.
Caltech is a fantastic, special place, and we are grateful that our son had the opportunity to learn and grow there. We hope to remain connected to the school for years to come.