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Butch Holtz: Criminal Justice Professor

From fugitives to bank robbers, from espionage to white collar crime, from homeland security to counter terrorism, Professor Richard L. “Butch” Holtz shares it all with his students at Tidewater Community College.

The Criminal Justice professor on the Virginia Beach Campus pulls from a range of experiences including 25 years as a special agent with the FBI along with five years as a probation and parole officer and as a combat marine in Vietnam.

“I’ve seen the worst of the worst of society,” he says.  “I have great respect for all of our public safety people as well as the military.”

But in his students, Holtz brings out the best. He wasn’t a naturally gifted student himself, struggling through Catholic high school in Kankakee, Ill., before enlisting in the U.S. Marines at 17. He survived 1969 in Vietnam, receiving a Purple Heart, and numerous other medals. He then pursued college. Holtz holds an associate in criminal justice, a bachelor’s in political science with a teaching certification. He completed the State of Virginia Study under an Attorney Program along with attending the College of William and Mary Law School.

Holtz worked as a probation and parole officer while studying law, “but in the back of my mind I wanted to be an FBI agent,” he says. “I tell my students to shoot for the gold if you can; why mess around with the bronze and the silver?”

Holtz’s FBI career began in 1980 and included stops in Chicago and Washington, D.C. before spending the bulk of his time at the Norfolk office. His career and life were nearly derailed by a horrific accident when he was 34. During Hostage Rescue Team training at Quantico, he fell 15 feet, ripping out his upper aorta all the way down to his aortic valve.

“I should have died,” admits Holtz, who endured nearly 12 hours of surgery. “I guess I’m the lucky one.”

The diversity of experiences made for a thrilling career in the FBI – he worked the John Walker spy case from beginning to end – and has vivid recollections of standing in the FBI Command Center watching the second plane crash into the World Trade Center on 9/11, live on TV. “We all went into super command mode.”

His most rewarding time was as a FBI chief hostage/crisis negotiator and instructor allowing him to teach more than 400 local, state and federal law enforcement officers, and certifying them as hostage negotiators.

“Negotiating is exhilarating,” he says. “These days I’ll be watching TV and see someone talk somebody out of a house and realize I could have trained that person.”

Holtz shares all his war stories in the gamut of the criminal justice classes he teaches. After retiring from the FBI in 2004, Holtz began teaching at TCC after former program head John Gray retired. He’s proud of the program that has maintained steady numbers throughout the recession and brags about faculty that include four lawyers, two police chiefs, four captains, four lieutenants and two sergeants – all with master’s or doctorate degrees. “Heck, our dean is a former police officer, lawyer, and judge.”

“Our program is a jewel at this college,” he says. “Students will not get this kind of education nor experience level anywhere else, period!”

Holtz is particularly attuned to students who remind him of himself. He didn’t always value education as he does today, but he’s faithful in reminding all students, “You can’t choose who you are, but you can choose who you become.” Success in life boils down to just one thing, “Just show up.”

In addition to teaching, Holtz is passionate about his tennis game and the Carrera S Porsche he drives to work every day. His wife, Karen, is a retired Virginia Beach school teacher as well as an information technology professor at TCC. Butch and Karen have one daughter, Erica, who is an accounting professor at Northern Virginia Community College and two future FBI agent grandsons.