They Found A Home at UConn. Now, They’re Giving Back

Jennifer Eburg

2 min read

They found a home at UConn. Now, they’re giving back.

When Kent Holsinger and Bill Cannon moved to Connecticut in 1986, they thought they would live here for maybe three or four years. But Holsinger found a home as a professor in UConn’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and they never left.

“We were very much Westerners. We didn’t intend to stay,” says Holsinger, who, like Cannon, grew up in southern Idaho. “After we’d been here a while, Bill felt like he was part of the community, and the department was a very good place for me professionally. It felt like home.”

Holsinger was a professor until 2012, when he became interim vice provost for graduate education. He currently serves as vice provost for graduate education and dean of The Graduate School. Cannon, now retired, is a gifted violinist who worked as IT director for a national business.

Holsinger and Cannon are longtime donors to the University, with decades of generous support for the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the Ross MacKinnon Endowment for CLAS Graduate Fellows, and other areas.

Holsinger says his support is motivated by wanting to make an impact in his own department as well as provide financial assistance for graduate students.

“There is so much philanthropic support for undergraduate students but not as much for graduate students,” Holsinger says. “Even before I became dean of The Graduate School, I was interested in supporting graduate students in their studies.”

Holsinger and Cannon considered planned giving as a way to maximize their impact, and recently established two new scholarships at UConn: the Bill Cannon Scholarship in Music and the Bill Cannon Scholarship Fund.

Cannon’s personal experience was the inspiration behind the music scholarship, which supports students enrolled in the School of Fine Arts. Just prior to starting college, he realized that he wanted to attend a different school than he had planned, one that would give him the most opportunity and allow him to continue studying with his longtime instructor, whom Cannon describes as “the teacher to work with in southern Idaho.”

There was just one problem with this plan: he couldn’t afford the school’s tuition.

Cannon shared the dilemma with his instructor. After their conversation, “somehow the money came out of nowhere and I was able to get in and afford it,” Cannon says. “If people hadn’t done this for me, I could not have attended the College of Idaho. This was the inspiration for me to try to do something for somebody else.”

The Bill Cannon Scholarship Fund supports students with a connection to UConn’s Rainbow Center. One of five cultural centers on campus, the Rainbow Center provides support and advocacy for UConn’s LGBTQIA+ communities.

“In today’s environment, kids who are viewed differently in society can have a difficult experience. It can be hard to navigate, and I understand what that’s like,” Cannon says. “I’m very impressed with the Rainbow Center’s work and wanted to help them out.”

It was important to Cannon and Holsinger that the scholarship be open to allies as well as the LGBTQIA+ community.

“I believe you should embrace people who are embracing you,” Cannon says.

For Holsinger and Cannon, it was natural to give back to a place that has embraced them personally and professionally.

“UConn is a place where I have been professionally well supported and have developed a number of good friendships,” Holsinger says. “The institution has been very good to me over the 37 years I’ve been here. It felt right to return the favor.”

Give to the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Endowment Fund

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