Stories of Strength





The Holland Family

In the early 1960s, Lou Holland Sr., a hard-working farm boy from Racine, came to UW-Madison and found his footing on the football field as a dynamic running back for the University of Wisconsin Badgers. After college, he found success in the financial world, becoming an investment professional and a highly respected regular on the long-running PBS program, Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser. Later in life, Lou Sr. was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.


In the face of this difficult diagnosis, Lou Sr. decided to tackle the disease with the same tenacity he exhibited in his athletic and professional careers. Sadly, Lou Sr. lost his battle to Alzheimer’s disease in early 2016. In tribute to his remarkable legacy, his son, Lou Jr., and the entire Holland family, have created the Louis A. Holland Sr. Professorship in Alzheimer’s disease at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute (WAI).


Cynthia Carlsson, MD, MS, is the first recipient of the award. Dr. Carlsson is the Director of the WAI and Clinical Core Leader of the Wisconsin ADRC. Her primary research goal is to better understand how vascular risk factors contribute to the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and how treating these vascular mechanisms may delay or prevent the onset of dementia.


This prestigious award not only honors the remarkable Lou Holland Sr., but also exemplifies the passion and dedication of the entire Holland family.


Please celebrate Lou Holland Sr.’s legacy and join the Holland family in advancing a cure through discovery, care and service through your support of the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can make a difference!

Lou Jr. with his dad, Lou Holland Sr.
“It means everything to me to have Pop’s name associated with this amazing University, and to have this Professorship carry his legacy forward in our fight against Alzheimer’s disease,” said Lou Jr.

In Memory of Lou

Learn more about Lou Holland Sr. and his family in this OnWisconsin feature article.

The Nordeen Family

Much like the beginnings of their relationship, the life and story of UW-Madison alumni Kit and Buzz is one of charm, play, hard work, and at times, struggle. They met on the tennis court, where both were asked to fill in for a doubles match. From there a friendship was born and soon after the two married. Together, they shared a love of each other’s company, as well as a variety of interests, including travel, wildlife, and above all, sports.


Kit was a natural when it came to sports, but today she is most known for the off-court battle she led and won for women’s equal rights in UW Athletics. Through years of hard work, and with the help of Title IX, she brought UW Women’s Athletics from intramural status in 1966 to being officially recognized by the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference in 1981. Kit was the first inductee into the UW Women’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1984, and named into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998. The fight was never easy, and always uphill, but Kit remained hopeful and committed, a constant cheerleader for women athletes. Today, her husband Buzz does the same for her. Due to Alzheimer’s disease, Kit has lost many of the memories that those who know her, and have admiringly followed her captivating career over the years, will forever hold dear. Her energetic step, now a shuffle, is just one sign of the changes in Kit.


Signs first appeared when Kit was driving. She got lost and couldn’t remember her way home. Tragically, Buzz had seen signs like this before. His first wife, Nora, developed early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and died at age 58 of leukemia. Kit suffers from the most common type of Alzheimer’s disease, late-onset, an illness also suffered by Kit’s late mother and younger brother.


A lifelong commitment to fitness and an expansive career in collegiate athletics made Kit an unlikely candidate for Alzheimer’s disease, where physical activity, complex thinking and education have been suggested as possible factors that could decrease one’s risk of developing it. The fact that so little is known about this debilitating disease led Buzz to do something about it. In the name of both Kit and Nora, he created the Nora Nordeen and Kit Saunders Nordeen Alzheimer’s disease Research Fund at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, aimed at understanding, treating and preventing the disease.


An unwavering commitment to leveling the playing field for generations of female athletes, Kit will forever be a symbol of progress. Without her, the landscape of UW athletic might look a lot different today.


Please join Buzz Nordeen and his family in advancing a cure through discovery, care and service through your support of the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can make a difference!

Kit Saunders Nordeen and Buzz Nordeen
Etched on a stone that sits atop Dale Nordeen’s dining room table, the words One Day at a Time have served well to guide Buzz, as he is best known, and his wife, Kit Saunders Nordeen, throughout their prolific careers. Since Kit’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in 2005, these same words now guide their journey with this devastating disease.

Watch the Channel 3 News feature on this husband’s touching story.

The Clifton Family

Raised by a father who was an Emeritus Professor of Radiation Biology and Cancer Research for the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, Will Clifton literally grew up on campus. He later went on to earn his degree from UW-Madison and was happily employed there for decades. However, in 2015 when it became clear that not one, but both of his parents had developed Alzheimer’s disease, Will made the important decision to take an early retirement. At the age of 55, he and his wife, Gwen, sold their home and moved into his childhood home to become a full-time, live-in caretaker for both of his parents.


A great deal of his learning involved figuring out ways to navigate caring for both of his parents simultaneously. As a cancer survivor, in concert with his experience working in the UW Office for Equity and Diversity tasked with inclusivity for all those in the workspace, it all became clear to him. “If I’m going to be a part of true change across communities, I need to have a positive impact on the community as a whole and focus on the ever-present disparities of who has access to care and who’s not having their needs met,” Will shared.


Will’s passion for preventing and ultimately curing Alzheimer’s disease has led him to develop collaborations in a number of areas – being a part of creating a dementia-friendly community, developing a Brain Health and Music Radio program, “Play It Again S.A.M. (Songs that Activate Memories) on UW-Madison’s student radio station – WSUM, as well as participating in two UW studies for children of those with Alzheimer’s disease.  “My chances of developing this disease are very high. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to go from being a volunteer who cares to become a part of a team which is incredibly empowering. NIH grants will need someone to focus on community engagement and outreach, inclusivity, and improvement of care,” said Will. His parents have since transitioned to fulltime care at Capital Lakes. Nevertheless, Will remains immersed in the caregiving process and is helping to get his parents the best form of care possible on all front.


“My dad exhibits sundowing symptoms daily between 3:00-5:00 pm. He becomes very agitated which then affects my mom as well as those around him and those caring for him. My brother, Brice, and I pick up our parents every day. We take them for a ride and sing their favorite songs. We go walking together and sing more songs on the ride back. It lifts their spirits, gets them active and involved, and creates a routine which greatly reduces agitation. It ultimately brings them both back to themselves,” said Will.


Will is proud to be a member of the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s Board of Visitors. Please join him and his family in advancing a cure through discovery, care and service with your support of the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can make a difference!

Will Clifton with his parents, Mayre Lee and Kelly Clifton
“I want to get them the best form of care possible on all fronts. And I will stay involved in this endeavor for others long after they’re gone,” said Will.

The Kubek/Peterson Family

Rita Kubek grew up during the depression in Buffalo, NY.  She was extremely intelligent, which enabled her to graduate high school at the early age of 16. Soon after graduation, Rita began working for Gould Battery in Buffalo and New Jersey during World War II.  She became a traveling businesswoman long before it was commonplace.


In 1951, Rita married Rudy Kubek and, like most women of her era, stayed home to raise Jim and his older brother.  Once the boys were in high school, Rita returned to the workforce on a part-time basis at a local bakery. Later she served as the church secretary/business manager for her local parish for nearly twenty years before retiring in 1995.  Rita was gifted, resourceful and enjoyed a wonderful sense of humor during this time.  Her intellect proved her a whiz at Scrabble, Pinochle, and crossword puzzles.


About five years into her retirement, Rita noticed that Rudy had experienced a loss of short-term memory. Eventually, he was unable to accomplish tasks he’d performed with ease his entire life, including handling the financial affairs of the home.  Rita stepped into this role and became Rudy’s primary caregiver as he gradually deteriorated due to dementia until his passing in 2006.


A year after Rudy’s death, Jim, along with other family members and friends, noticed a decline in Rita’s short-term memory as well as her ability to socialize and engage with others. Due to her astuteness, Rita was able to compensate, making diagnosis very tricky.  She reluctantly agreed to testing in 2012, and it was at that time when Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) was formally diagnosed.  Rita spent the last year of her life in a memory care facility in Madison, not far from Jim and his wife, Jill. Though she had several cognitive deficits, she continued to play a mean game of Pinochle and often prevailed!


Jim had enrolled his mom in UW’s Brain Donation Program, so an autopsy was performed hours after her death in 2014.  Because of her relatively high function, the family was a bit surprised to learn that all three markers for AD were present at the highest levels in her brain.


At an Alzheimer’s event in 2017, Jim and Jill heard Dr. Sterling Johnson share his desire to perform more PET scans on study participants. PET scans reveal major hallmarks of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  Learning the high cost of PET scans, they felt motivated to support this endeavor with a $40,000 match gift, to inspire others to give (note: $10,000 will be matched per year for 4 years and the match for 2018 has been fulfilled). They felt this gift would support the charitable gift fund they created from the estate of Jill’s parents. The fund, known as the Kubek/Peterson Charitable Gift Fund will also honor Jim’s late mother diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease via a brain study, and his late father who suffered from dementia, thus honoring both families.


Anyone wishing to take advantage of this generous gift match and support this important work, please click here to give to the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s Research Fund (112580112). When prompted, make a tribute saying your gift is in honor of the Kubek Match to fund PET scans so that your gift will be properly designated/matched. Together, we can make a difference!

Jim and Jill Kubek
“We have seen first hand how dementia and Alzheimer’s have scourged so many in our parents’ generation. Jill and I are determined to make things better for our generation and the ones that follow,`` said Jim.

The Chin Family

Dr. Nate Chin chose to become a doctor because his father, who was also a physician, inspired him.  However, when his dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Chin changed his focus to geriatrics and moved from California to Wisconsin to be of help to his mother care for his father.  Many families go through this diagnosis with loved ones and it affects more than 5.5 million Americans age 65 and older.  Although Alzheimer ’s disease does not have a cure, the research being conducted at UW to find a cure often reveals other information that can help families dealing with the disease and perhaps even offer potential ways to prevent or delay symptoms in those who are not yet affected.


Because it is such a complex and misunderstood disease, Nate had several questions about his father’s future, diagnosis, and treatment- questions he tries to better answer for his own patients and the community with a new resource- a podcast called “Dementia Matters.”  The goal of the podcast is to take scientific information and translate it into verbiage that as many people as possible can understand.  Through interviews and discussions with researchers from the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center on topics ranging from gender differences in Alzheimer’s disease to lifetime stress and brain health, Dr. Chin asks the experts about their research and their findings and tries to relate it as best he can to the community.


Although Dr. Chin’s father, Moe, recently succumbed to the disease, Nate will continue to honor his father’s memory through his work.


Please join Nate in advancing a cure through discovery, care, and service with your support of the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can make a difference!

Dr. Nate Chin with his father, Moe

The Kenseth Family

Born in Fort Atkinson in 1948, Nicola “Nicki” Kenseth worked as a secretary before meeting, and later marrying, Roy Kenseth. Nicki adored children, and she and Roy had two, Kelley and Matt. Described as “a woman with a servant’s heart”—Nicki was devoted to her family, her faith and helping others. Nicki’s greatest joy in life was her grandchildren.


In January of 2003, her family began noticing minor personality changes, as well as struggles with simple math and daily tasks, prior to her shattering diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD). As the disease progressed, Nicki required supervision 24 hours a day. Along with her husband and daughter—Nicki’s primary caregivers—there was a steady army of supporters and caregivers. In 2012, after nearly a decade of fighting AD, Nicki succumbed at just 63 years old.


The Kenseth family is well known for their philanthropic efforts. Matt Kenseth, famous NASCAR driver, and Kelley have hosted many fundraising events, making it their mission to push AD into the spotlight by supporting research needed to find a treatment. They understand that prevention is the best answer.


“We have a better choice.  We can choose to be part of a community of peers fighting to treat, prevent and cure this devastating disease. We must also consider the impact of this disease and seek to become more informed on all the issues surrounding it. Your awareness is a stepping-stone toward action,” said Kelley.


Kelley is proud to be a member of the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s Board of Visitors. Please join her and her family in advancing a cure through discovery, care and service with your support of the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can make a difference!

Kelley with her mom, Nicki
“The suffering never eases up or goes into remission. Alzheimer’s steals everything. The patient receives the diagnosis and, little by little, all the things that defined their freedom are taken from them until even their free will has disappeared completely. We must find a cure,” said Kelley.
Nicki, Matt and Kelley