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 Nordeen is one of charm, play, hard work, and at times, struggle. The couple met on the tennis court, where both were asked to fill in for a doubles match. From there, a friendship was born, and the two were soon married. Together, they shared a love of travel, wildlife, and above all, sports.


Kit was a natural athlete, widely known for her tireless work helping other women athletes find opportunities. She led and won the battle 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. Without Kit, the landscape of UW athletics might look a lot different today. The fight for equality in college athletics was never easy, but Kit remained hopeful and committed. Due to Alzheimer’s disease, Kit tragically lost many of the memories of her professional accomplishments.


Signs of memory loss 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.


In light of the devastating effect Alzheimer’s disease could have on a person as vital and enthusiastic at Kit, and in memory of his first wife, Nora, Buzz created the Nora Nordeen and Kit Saunders Nordeen Alzheimer’s Disease Research Fund at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. The goal of the fund is aimed at understanding, treating and preventing the disease.


Through her unwavering commitment to leveling the playing field for generations of female athletes, Kit will forever be a symbol of progress. We invite you to join the commitment to progress and help Buzz Nordeen and his family in advancing a cure through your support of the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can make a difference!


In Memory of Kit: Learn more about the legacy of Dr. Kit Saunders-Nordeen in this UW Badgers article.

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, he opted for an early retirement in 2015, when it became clear that both of his parents had developed Alzheimer’s disease. At the age of 55, Will and his wife, Gwen, sold their home and moved into his childhood home to become caregivers for both of his parents.


Will quickly realized the challenges of navigating care for both of his parents simultaneously. As a cancer survivor and professional working in the UW Office for Equity and Diversity tasked with inclusivity in the workplace, the ties between his past experiences and his current reality 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 said.


Will’s passion for preventing and ultimately curing Alzheimer’s disease has led him to develop collaborations in a number of areas. He is part of creating a dementia-friendly community, has developed a Brain Health and Music Radio program called “Play It Again S.A.M.” (Songs that Activate Memories) on UW–Madison’s student radio station — WSUM, and participates in two research studies for children of those with Alzheimer’s disease. “My chances of developing this disease are very high,” Will said. “I’ve been afforded the opportunity to go from being a volunteer who cares to becoming a part of a team, which is incredibly empowering.”


Will’s parents have since transitioned to fulltime care at Capital Lakes. Nevertheless, Will remains immersed in the caregiving process.


“My dad exhibits sundowning symptoms daily between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m.,” Will said. “He becomes very agitated, which then affects my mom as well as those around him. My brother, Brice, and I visit 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 creates a routine . It ultimately brings them both back to themselves,” Will said.


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, graduating 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 older, Rita returned to the workforce on a part-time basis at a local bakery. Later, she served as the church secretary and business manager for her local parish for nearly twenty years. Rita was gifted, resourceful and wonderfully funny. Her quick intellect made her a whiz at Scrabble, Pinochle and crossword puzzles.


About five years into her retirement, Rita noticed her husband, 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 became Rudy’s primary caregiver as he gradually deteriorated due to dementia and died 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, and a reluctance to socialize and engage with others. Due to her high intelligence, Rita was able to compensate for these changes, making a diagnosis very tricky. She reluctantly agreed to testing in 2012, and sadly she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Rita spent the last year of her life in a memory care facility in Madison, not far from her son Jim and his wife, Jill. Though she had several cognitive deficits, she continued to play a good game of Pinochle, often winning!


Rita was enrolled in the Wisconsin Brain Donor Program, so an autopsy was performed hours after her death in 2014. Because of her relatively high function at the time of her death, the family was surprised when the autopsy revealed all three markers of Alzheimer’s disease were present in Rita’s brain at the highest levels.


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, and understanding how meaningful scans can be in diagnosing disease, they felt motivated to support this endeavor with a $40,000 match gift, to inspire others to give. They felt this gift would support the charitable gift fund they created from the estate of Jill’s parents. The fund is the Kubek/Peterson Charitable Gift Fund.


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. 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. Nathaniel Chin chose to become a doctor because of his father, Moe Chin, who was a physician in his hometown of Watertown, Wisconsin. However, when his dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Chin changed his career focus to geriatrics and moved from California to Wisconsin to help his mother as a caregiver to his father. More than 5.5 million Americans age 65 and older are living with an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, and many millions more are caregivers to a loved one.


Today, Dr. Chin sees patients in the UW Health Memory Clinic and is medical director at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention. Remembering all the questions he had when his father was diagnosed, Dr. Chin provides information about Alzheimer’s disease through the podcast he hosts, Dementia Matters. Through interviews and discussions with researchers and experts on topics ranging from gender differences in Alzheimer’s disease, stress and brain health, medical treatments, and prevention factors, Dr. Chin works to relate information to the many families like his own, who are living with the uncertainty of memory loss.


Although Dr. Chin’s father recently succumbed to the disease, he 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 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. She sometimes struggled with simple math and daily tasks, and sadly received the shattering diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease progressed, Nicki required fulltime help. 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 Alzheimer’s disease, Nicki died. She was only 63 years old.


The Kenseth name is well-known is Wisconsin, both because Nicki’s son, Matt, is a legendary NASCAR driver, and because of the family’s generous philanthropic efforts. Matt and Kelley have hosted many fundraising events in their mother’s honor, making it their mission to support Alzheimer’s disease research.


“We have a better choice,” Kelley said. “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.”


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