OU honors student with posthumous degree

Daniel Holland, a 20-year old University of Oklahoma student who died in Berlin over the summer, will be given a degree posthumously.

A posthumous degree has been given to a University of Oklahoma student who died while traveling abroad last summer.

Daniel Holland, a senior who was close to obtaining a major in Letters with a concentration in Constitutional studies, will be awarded that degree from the OU College of Arts and Sciences. The OU Board of Regents approved the posthumous degree at its Thursday meeting in Tulsa.

Holland was 18 hours away from completing his degree in Letters, according to the agenda item presented to the regents. He had already done enough for a Bachelor of Arts in International and Area Studies and maintained a 3.78 GPA.

On June 11 of this year, Holland was in Berlin when he and a friend attempted to swim across the Spree river that runs through the German capital. The friend made it out of the river, but Holland drowned.

OU President David Boren said it was a "tragic loss" for the OU community and offered "our deepest sympathy and prayers" to Holland's family. The news was met similarly by the Norman Rotary Club community, especially those in the Rotaract Club for young adults between 18 and 30 years old.

Holland was Rotaract president, and had been for about a year and a half at the time of his passing. The club's advisor, Dennis Brigham, said no one deserves a degree more than Holland.

"I can’t think of anyone more deserving to receive a degree, honorary or not," Brigham said. "He had a keen intellect. He wanted to make a difference, and I would say that he did."

While Holland was president, the Norman Rotaract Club earned Rotary's yearly Presidential Citation award twice. The club took part in or assisted programs to help feed the hungry, house the less fortunate, and enabled 34,000 children to be vaccinated against Polio.

"That was all during his leadership," Brigham said.

Rotary and Rotaract clubs will also be honoring Holland with a series of acts and awards. Both will posthumously award him with the Paul Harris fellowship. Funds that come with the award will be given as charity, something his family asked for, Brigham said.

"It's important to them that many good acts be don in Daniel's name," he said.

In Rotaract meetings, Brigham said members have started a tradition called Do It for Daniel, in which cards are passed around encouraging them to take part in random acts of kindness.

"On the back side, it simply asks what act of kindness are you going to do today and gives a space to write it down," Brigham said.

The club is also collecting books for a neighborhood book exchange to be placed in Holland's hometown of McKinney, Texas.