Women’s Health Benefactor Leaves $1.75 Million Estate Gift

From the UConn Foundation’s newsletter, Our Moment (September 2012)

After his wife died in 1995, Fred M. Hollfelder devoted his considerable resources to preserving her legacy of support for women’s health and education. Over the last 16 years, the Charlotte Johnson Hollfelder Foundation has had a significant and lasting effect on women’s health care at the UConn Health Center as well as other institutions around the state.

Peter Deckers, left, and Fred Hollfelder, at the dedication of the Charlotte Johnson Hollfelder Center for Women's Health at the UConn Health Center. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo).

Peter Deckers, left, and Fred Hollfelder, at the dedication of the Charlotte Johnson Hollfelder Center for Women’s Health at the UConn Health Center. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo).

Hollfelder died at age 77 in November 2011. Adding to his past gifts toward the UConn Health Center, Hollfelder bequeathed an additional $1.75 million through his estate, bringing his total lifetime giving to more than $2.3 million. His final contribution will support the Charlotte Johnson Hollfelder Center for Women’s Health, which he established in loving memory of his wife with a previous major gift in the late 1990s.

“Mr. Hollfelder was a dedicated advocate for women’s health care. He has touched the lives of thousands of women and their families through his many gifts in memory of his wife. We are extremely grateful for his support, and proud to carry on the legacies of both Mr. and Mrs. Hollfelder through the Charlotte Johnson Hollfelder Center for Women’s Health,” says Frank M. Torti, MD, MPH, executive vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“Fred was the perfect embodiment of empathy. He saw hurt, but more than just sorrow over it, he resolved to do something about it. And he did so quietly and effectively many, many times over. He gave of his resources enthusiastically without discrimination or judgment, never expecting anything in return, especially recognition,” says Peter Deckers, MD, professor of surgery and dean emeritus of the School of Medicine. “Fred made us and our world a so much better place.”

Hollfelder and Charlotte Johnson had a storybook romance. The two grew up one street away from each other in New Britain and attended school together from kindergarten through high school. Their courtship would begin years later though, when Hollfelder tracked down his childhood neighbor to ask for a date.

After graduating from New Britain High School, Hollfelder served in the US Air Force, and then attended the University of Hartford. During his successful career, he rose through the ranks at Emhart Corp., a multinational machine manufacturing company. Following a merger with Black & Decker in 1989, he became president of the Emhart Division. He retired in 1990 as president of commercial hardware and security and president/general manager of the Corbin/Russwin Architectural Division.

While Hollfelder was working his way up in Emhart’s Chicago office, Johnson had started a career in airline sales promotion. Knowing Johnson worked for Scandinavian Air, Hollfelder asked around about her at the Bradley Airport ticket counters during a business trip back to the Connecticut office. He thought he might run into someone who knew Johnson even though Scandinavian Air didn’t have a presence at Bradley. He struck out, but was undeterred. Hollfelder eventually received Johnson’s unlisted phone number from a co-worker, and called to ask her out to dinner. That was the beginning of their 26-year romance. After a whirlwind three-month courtship, the childhood friends wed and started their life together in Chicago.

In Chicago, Johnson Hollfelder became deeply involved in health care volunteerism. When her husband’s work eventually brought them back to Connecticut in 1979, Johnson Hollfelder began volunteering at the UConn Health Center.

After surviving breast cancer, Johnson Hollfelder died of an unrelated illness in 1995. Her husband carried on her legacy with support for various programs, including free mammograms, a cancer fatigue clinic, psychological services for women fighting breast cancer, as well as a scholarship for medical students specializing in women’s health. Additionally, Hollfelder established the Richard J. Hollfelder Memorial Scholarship, in honor of his brother, for undergraduate students at the UConn School of Nursing.

Follow the UConn Health Center on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.