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News & Events

Remembering Elizabeth Schar: A Bright and Shining Light

If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me,
By the light, by the light, by the light of the moon.

If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me,
By the bright shining light of the moon.

Human Ecology Board of Visitors Chair Emerita and All Ways Forward Human Ecology Campaign Committee Chair Elizabeth Holloway Schar (BS ‘75 Family and Consumer Journalism) released her mortal frame on Friday September 7 at her home in Palo Alto, California. Schar was 65 years old.

Her family is planning to honor and celebrate Elizabeth with two memorial services – one in Madison at the School of Human Ecology (most likely in concert with the board of visitors meeting October 18-19) and another one in Palo Alto.

Schar’s lifelong work was guided by an enduring commitment to making a difference for children, families and communities.

“Elizabeth was such an inspirational leader and close friend to all of us as well as a distinguished alumna, and a human ecologist thru and thru.  She has left a huge legacy, and it is up to us to live up to what she left for us.”

–Dean Soyeon Shim

Elizabeth had deep roots in the UW-Madison School of Human Ecology. While both parents graduated from UW-Madison, her mother (Jane Davies Holloway BS ‘45) and aunt (Elizabeth Carol Davies BS ‘38) earned degrees from the School. Most recently, niece Leah Holloway (BS 2018) achieved her degree in the Community and Nonprofit Leadership Program.

Reflecting on her college memories in a 2006 interview upon appointment to the board of visitors, Schar’s natural curiosity and lifelong desire for learning shined through. “There was so much to do, so much to absorb. It was just an amazing experience.”

That same year Dean Robin A. Douthitt asked Elizabeth to chair a task force of fifteen industry, community and faculty members to explore the feasibility for a UW-Madison Center for Financial Security.  It was her background in consumer behavior, her passion to understand – and help – people that served as her personal and professional compass. She was the perfect choice for the daring new idea.

Now in its tenth year, the Center for Financial Security is globally recognized as leader in the field in applied research on household finance.

If not me, then who? If not now, then when?

Closer to her home – 3.5 miles away from Palo Alto – Elizabeth learned the students in that district start dropping out of science class as freshmen because they didn’t know what to do—there was no lab experience available to them in middle school. Compared to peers from well-resourced school districts who spend up to 400 days, for Schar it was simply not acceptable.

Never one to stand on the sidelines, she rolled up her sleeves and over a 9-year period built bridges of collaboration to bring people – and ideas – together to make an impact on students.

“This experience has shown me it is possible to bring justice to a population.  I am not a teacher or a scientist and yet we changed a culture. It took 9 years and the hands of many.  It can be done.”

–Elizabeth Schar, 2016

Family and Community

In a 2015 interview Elizabeth Schar described the genesis of the Elizabeth C. Davies Chair in Child & Family Well-Being. “The idea of making a difference (with our philanthropy) started a few years ago, like all good ideas, just sitting around the table with really creative people – it was a conversation with Dorothy O’Brien about mindfulness and well-being.”

Her late Aunt Betty was the inspiration for the position and in true fashion, Elizabeth was adamant that the article about the gift be focused towards her aunt, not on her or husband Mark. She believed philanthropy was a means to do good work, support good people.

When asked what was meaningful to her about Aunt Betty, Elizabeth paused and said, ” I so admired her and what she [Betty] described as ‘living a full and complete life’. She traveled extensively yet remained grounded by her values to family and community. Family means everything.”

True Wisconsin humor

Elizabeth Schar had an elegant wit. The 18 months when she led the financial security feasibility task force required many coordination meetings with SoHE staff, most often held at Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha. It was this same time that a fellow member of the board of visitors had moved to London for a leadership position at Burberry. Elizabeth could not resist – she mailed him a fabulous t-shirt from Mars Cheese Castle and dared him to wear it at his new high fashion job.

Humble. Curious. Compassionate.

These are the qualities by which human ecologists live their life and no one exemplified those more than Elizabeth Schar.

The School of Human Ecology Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes both professional and personal accomplishments of graduates of the School of Human Ecology. In selecting Elizabeth Schar for this award in 2016, the committee noted her singular passion to affect a positive impact on others, and her lifelong commitment to making a difference for children, families and communities.

A partner with husband Mark Schar in Three Points Solutions, a Palo Alto, California firm, Elizabeth worked with such clients as the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitals and public health agencies.

In addition to Mark, Elizabeth’s family includes two sons: Tom (2004 BA Art History; MBA 2011) and John.

For more information please contact:

Linda Zwicker, Senior Assistant Dean

lazwicker@wisc.edu  |  608.265.5136


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