Lou and Darcy Holland
Photo: Lou and Darcy Holland

You’d be hard-pressed to find a family with more Badger pride than the Hollands. Not only did Louis Holland Jr. (Economics ’86) and Darcy Holland (Psychology and Sociology ’85, Rehabilitation Psychology ’88) earn their degrees from UW–Madison, they were raised by Badger alumni, fell in love with each other on campus and have gone on to raise three now-graduated UW students.

“Our kids had the choice to go anywhere they wanted, despite what people would say to us where we live outside of Chicago,” Darcy says. “But they love Madison.” 

While not mandatory, their children’s affinity for the University likely has a lot to do with their parents. Lou and Darcy’s enthusiasm for the campus is down-right infectious. The two are regulars at Badger sporting events — Lou and his father both played on the football team — and love to visit the University when they’re in town. 

“My time on campus was amazing,” Lou says, remembering what it was like to be a student. “My social, my academic, my athletic — the three most important things to me then — they all just came in full circle and connected at Wisconsin.” 

After graduating, Lou put his economics degree to work. He’s worked in the investment and finance industry for 38 years. Throughout his career, he received a lot of support from fellow Badgers, and he has since paid it forward by investing in fellow Wisconsin grads. 

“It sounds so cliche to say, ‘Once a Badger, always a Badger,’” Darcy says. “But even when Lou is hiring, and in some of the investments we’ve made, if it’s a Wisconsin person, we are more apt to talk to them because we know their background.” 

Darcy had a career as a rehabilitation counselor after graduation, with concentrations on people with brain injuries as well as adolescent populations. When the couple started their family, she stayed home to raise the kids. Together in 2008, the couple co-founded CUMOTA, LLC, which is a family office specializing in real estate, consulting and private markets investing.   

“We’ve been blessed, and because of that we can give the University our time, talent and treasure,” Lou says. 

As a couple, they live this belief to the fullest. Lou has served on several boards across the University and is the current chair for the College of Letters & Science’s Board of Visitors and vice chair of the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association’s Board of Directors. Their philanthropic support for L&S programs like the Center for Academic Excellence and SuccessWorks has directly supported students through scholarships and mentorship opportunities. 

“The incalculable reward you get from educating one person is enormous,” Darcy says. “You don’t know what could possibly come out of your donation to help offset the cost of school for someone who may someday do something that helps the entire world.”

Making an Impact

It was a scholarship that gave Lou’s mother the opportunity to go to UW–Madison in the 1960s. That’s why it’s so important to the Hollands to give back to campus initiatives that create opportunities for all students to get the Badger experience. One such organization is the College of Letters & Science Center for Academic Excellence (CAE). Beyond scholarships, CAE provides academic advising to students from historically underrepresented backgrounds in higher education, undergraduate research opportunities and a summer collegiate experience that helps ease the transition to campus. We sat down with Assistant Dean for L&S and Director of CAE Karen Stroud-Phillips.

What does success look like for this program? 

We recognize that the definition of success is personal, and it looks different from one student to the next. Certainly, the big picture includes high retention, strong academic performance and timely graduation. However, we are also successful when we can empower students to have an amazing college experience that combines learning, intellectual and personal growth, and preparation to live the life they want.

How does support from donors directly benefit students?

If you’re struggling to pay for college, it’s very difficult to take advantage of all the University offers. And for some of our students, affordability issues are a semester-to-semester concern. Knowing that they have a scholarship to fund their education means they can really focus on being a college student. The generosity of people like the Hollands allows greater opportunity to pursue an internship, or to work fewer hours, or get more involved in co-curricular endeavors.

What impact does this program have on the lives of CAE scholars? 

I always invite people to our CAE graduation in early May. The stories our graduating scholars share are profound and moving, and the tears flow easily for most of us in the room. Students share their feelings of accomplishment, and also about the challenges they’ve overcome and the role that their connection with CAE played in assisting them. For so many of our scholars, CAE serves as a home base as they learn to navigate the larger University community. We feel privileged to witness the amazing ways they grow from the time they enter college to when they graduate and head off to live out the Wisconsin Idea.

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