In her life of philanthropy, a few special gifts stand out
UNL journalism graduate Margaret Holman talks about the two places she’s most passionate about helping out.
Posted: Fri, Feb 9, 2018
Within Central Park there’s a special green bench.
It’s Margaret Holman’s favorite. She seeks it out some days and sits down. She looks around at the people and trees, the seasons, the sun. Sometimes, she thinks about her life and the long way she’s come from her days as a journalism student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Within her heart there’s a special memory from those days: It’s 1973. She’s at a press conference on campus her senior year, working hard as a public-relations intern for the university. Her friend Linda introduces her to a sharp young reporter from the Lincoln Star. He’s just a few years older. A Nebraska boy from McCook.
The man who would become the love of her life.
His name is etched on a plaque on that bench:
In Memory of
Richard Lee Holman …
“He asked me out to have coffee, or go have a beer, and I agreed,” Margaret says. “But I couldn’t remember his name, and so I had to call Linda to find out who he was!” She laughs.
“And I didn’t tell him that until after we got married.”
Margaret speaks by phone from her office in Midtown Manhattan, an easy walk to the southeast edge of Central Park. She’s being asked to talk about her life for this story about why she gives back to the university.
She gives back, she says, because the university helped give her and Richard — “Dick” — their great life.
“Neither of us would have gotten very far in life,” she says, “if we hadn’t gotten the kind of education that we got at the university.”
Dick died unexpectedly last year. In his memory, Margaret “adopted” that green bench.
It’s near the tennis courts Dick loved, on the far northwest side of Central Park.
She wrote the words for the plaque:
… Beloved Husband and Son,
Journalist, Lover of Words and Tennis
And lover of the University of Nebraska.
“People here are always curious about somebody who left Nebraska,” Margaret says.
“Most people here and on either coast don’t think about Nebraska as being a wonderful training ground. So Dick was always a model of ‘Midwest nice’ for folks. He was really smart, he knew his stuff, and he always said those were the things he learned when he was at the university.”
Margaret gives back, she says, because she and Dick both witnessed the power of philanthropy first-hand.
Philanthropy actually became her career after she and Dick moved to New York City in the early ’80s. In 1991, she started her philanthropic consulting company, Holman Consulting. She co-wrote two important books in her field: “Major Donor Fundraising” and “The Complete Guide to Careers in Fund Raising.” She served as president of the Philanthropic Planning Group of Greater New York – a group that honored her this fall with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
While she moved up in the world of philanthropy, her husband moved up in the world of journalism. He wrote a column at the Wall Street Journal for years before becoming the editor of all the financial reports at Morgan Stanley. He ended his career as senior vice president for HSBC Securities, one of the largest banks in the world.
Margaret says her career in fundraising taught her why people give back. It taught her that when people make a personally significant gift, whatever the amount, they tend to narrow their focus down over the years to two or three organizations.
“When we start to think about philanthropy, we’re sort of scattered,” she says. “We have lots and lots of interests. Then as we get older, we get more — I don’t want to say ‘picky’ – but things narrow down to the organization and the missions that mean the most to us, that give us the most feedback and satisfaction from giving a gift.”
For her and Dick, one of their top philanthropic passions became UNL’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications. They started with a small gift years ago. Then they created a scholarship. Then, when the college moved from Avery Hall to its current location in Andersen Hall, they underwrote the courtyard outside: The Dick and Margaret Holman Plaza.
The University of Nebraska, she says, was where they learned to write. (Although Dick, she says, was a much better writer.) It was where they learned journalism ethics. It was where they learned the importance of networking and teamwork – “an important lesson to learn in life.”
After Dick died, Margaret asked people to send any memorials in his name to UNL’s College of Journalism & Mass Communications. “Dick’s will had the university in it, as does mine,” says Margaret, who’s a member of the Burnett Society. “It’s for the College of Journalism, but it’s unrestricted.”
While most people want to designate exactly where their gifts will go, she says, she prefers to give to unrestricted funds because they allow the university to use the money wherever it’s needed the most.
Margaret also serves on the board of the University of Nebraska Foundation and has served on its Planned Gift Advisory Committee.
Besides the university, she says, their other main philanthropic passion over the years became Central Park.
Margaret sometimes thinks back to the days when she and Dick first came to New York City and they walked together in the park. They used it almost every day. But back in the early ’80s, she says, Central Park could be a scary place. You didn’t want to walk there alone at night, she says, maybe even in the day.
She and Dick became supporters of the Central Park Conservancy, a private non-profit group formed in 1980 to improve the park. With the help of the city and all the people who wanted to give back to the park, that group restored it to what it is today.
A special place.
… Beloved …
And within Central Park, there’s now a special green bench with a story.