(Left to right) Dr. Ken Warden, dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology
at UAFS; Anne Thomas, director of planned giving with the UAFS Foundation; Carolyn
Holzman; and Kenneth Siebenmorgen, financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial.
When tragedy struck Carolyn Holzman last year, she struggled to cope with losing her son, Scott. The pain of his loss remained with her – even today, she struggles to hold back tears when she speaks of him.
But she was able to find some peace in his loss through an endowment established in Scott’s name at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith that reflects his best qualities: loyalty, selflessness, and hard work.
The Scott Holzman Memorial Scholarship Endowment will provide scholarships to university students pursuing a degree in automotive technology, as Scott did more than 20 years ago as a student at UAFS when it was Westark Community College.
He had always enjoyed work that required him to use his hands, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, a mechanic who Scott was close to. The young Scott loved to hear his grandfather’s stories of working on farm equipment.
But his interest in becoming an auto mechanic took several years to develop. Following his graduation from high school, he enrolled at the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville to pursue a career in computer programming.
After two years in the program, however, he decided programming wasn’t for him. Instead, he wanted to become an auto mechanic and enrolled in the automotive technology program at UAFS.
He earned an associate degree from the program, then went to work at Warden’s Service Center, an automotive repair facility in Ozark owned by the family of Dr. Ken Warden, now the Dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology at UAFS.
Warden, a fellow graduate of the automotive program at Westark, also went to work at the garage. While the two were acquaintances, they grew to become close friends during the five years they worked together.
“Professionally, he was a dang good mechanic,” Warden said. “In the mechanic world, there’s one thing that trumps all others, and that’s comebacks. When you fix something, it needs to be fixed and it doesn’t need to come back to the garage. When Scott fixed something and it left, it didn’t come back.”
“As a friend, he was one of the most loyal people I’ve ever met in my life,” Warden continued. “If I was stuck in the middle of nowhere at three in the morning and I needed someone, Scott would be there if I called him. I think we’re blessed to have a few people in our lives like that.”
Warden saw less of Scott as Warden began raising a family and decided to go to graduate school. Weekends were filled with writing papers and coaching little league. But each time Warden saw Scott, their conversations resumed as naturally as if they had just seen each other the day before.
Then, one day in March 2015, a sheriff deputy at Ozark drove down the driveway of Carolyn’s house. At first, she thought he was going to tell her the neighbor’s cows had gotten out again – that is, until she saw his face when he emerged from the car.
“When he walked up the driveway, you knew he wasn’t delivering good news,” she said.
Scott Holzman (right) receives his diploma during Westark
Community College's 1992 commencement ceremony.
The news wasn’t just bad, it was catastrophic. When her son Scott didn’t show up to work that morning at the auto garage where he worked – an immediate red flag for someone as punctual as he was – an employee went to check on him and found him dead at his home after suffering a heart attack.
“I never dreamed it would happen,” Carolyn said, her voice choked with tears. “He wasn’t supposed to go before me.”
Carolyn buried her son days later but continued to grieve. She had lost her husband, Phil, six years before, now a bereaved mother in addition to a widow.
She also had difficulty spending the money from Scott’s estate, and said as much to Kenneth Siebenmorgen, her financial adviser who worked with Ameriprise Financial.
As a neighbor of Carolyn’s, Siebenmorgen was a close family friend and knew her pain firsthand, as he had lost a nephew years before. He also knew of the peace his family had found by establishing an endowment at a university in the nephew’s name, and recommended Carolyn do the same for Scott.
“I just stressed to Carolyn that none of us know why we’re put in these places during our lifetime, but now she had an opportunity to do something in Scott’s memory that will help other talented individuals,” he said. “And Carolyn, being a great person, wanted to do something selfless like that for other people.”
Carolyn met with the UAFS Foundation and decided to establish the Scott Holzman Memorial Scholarship Endowment for students wanting to pursue degrees in automotive technology, a gesture that reflects the selflessness of Scott himself.
“As the dean of the college and a friend of Scott’s, it’s very humbling to receive something like this,” Warden said. “I can’t think of a better use of that money and a better way to honor the guy that he was. I’ve seen firsthand from my dad’s business how difficult it is to find good mechanics. This will go a long way in helping us develop the future Scott Holzmans of the region into great auto mechanics.”
About the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith
The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is the premiere regional institution of Western Arkansas, connecting education with careers and serving as a driver of economic development and quality of place in the greater Fort Smith region. Through a small campus, dedicated professors, and the university’s unique bond with its community, students at UAFS are able to do more in the areas they are passionate about, both on- and off-campus, in a way that prepares them for post-graduate success. To find out how you can do more at UAFS, visit www.uafs.edu.