A legacy of human connection: Long-time NMU Residence Life Director honored
MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University recently held a dedication ceremony for a memorial display case and named annual scholarship honoring the legacy of the late Carl Holm, an NMU alumnus who worked 42 years in Housing and Residence Life, retiring as its director.
A committee of colleagues, friends and family raised more than $15,000 for both projects.
The display case is located near Northern Lights Dining. The scholarship will help support an undergraduate student who lives in NMU student housing during the year they receive it. The student will have assumed a leadership role in the residence hall community and contributed to building a positive on-campus living environment.
Jeff Korpi, who worked under Holm and succeeded him as director, now serves as associate vice president of the Northern Student Experience. He said the positive communities that flourished at the “house” level under Holm’s direction and support continue to exist today.
“Carl built a model residence hall program still referenced in housing and student affairs circles across the nation,” Korpi said. “He developed six chief student affairs officers working across nation. Carl’s housing model emphasized the value of student relationships and engagement, with student interests at the center of everything. He built a community program based on an intentional series of interactions.
“He also created programs like Live, Learn, Lead, which emphasized leadership and self-development for our residence hall student leaders. That program engaged and inspired our students to serve their fellow residents, and inspired confidence and encouraged students from all walks of life and backgrounds to care about their neighbors and make a difference in the cinder block halls that surrounded them.”
Holm earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1970 and a master’s of education in counseling and guidance in 1976. His career in Housing and Residence Life began as a resident director in Halverson Hall. According to Korpi, Holm’s supervisor told him he could only serve in the RD position on a temporary basis because he had never served previously as a resident adviser.
“That’s pretty fitting because Carl often took a chance on people or slightly bent the rules when students who had potential found themselves in a bind,” Korpi said. “Situations were rarely black and white for Carl; he operated in the gray. Carl had time for everyone and had a sincere interest in their experiences, stories and lives. It is not a stretch to say that Carl had a positive impact on thousands of students during his time at NMU. He could motivate and entertain staff at length in training, over lunches, in random conversations, but especially over a few beers after work.”
Holm went on to serve two years as RD before his promotion to assistant dean for Quad I (Payne, Halverson, Gant and Spalding Halls). He then served 27 years as director of Housing and Residence Life, retiring in 2014.
Dave Bonsall, former director of the Center for Student Enrichment at NMU, recalled being in his final year as a resident adviser in Dakota House in Halverson Hall when Holm came in as the new hall director. A group went out for a beer one night to get acquainted. The next day, Bonsall and Holm were the first two people in the hall.
During a walking tour, Bonsall passed by new rolls of red carpeting and remarked how disappointing it was that the blue they requested, to reflect Dakota’s color scheme, was delivered to a different floor instead. Holm said, “Let’s move them,” and they completed the task together.
“From that first encounter until the time he passed in 2019, I felt special and good after each time we got together, even after retirement,” Bonsall said. “People always talk about how Carl always made time to spend a few minutes talking with people, and the conversation always focused on you: what are you interested in, how’s life going? If you had a challenge going on, he would give you some really useful advice. This was always sprinkled with a lot of wit and humor. It was just always an engagement you left feeling better about when you ran into Carl.”
Others who spoke at the event included Cat Hardenbergh, director of Housing and Residence Life; NMU President Brock Tessman; and Holm’s son, Chris, who made comments on behalf of the family.