William Holleman ’62
William Holleman ’62, Ph.D., ended his journey on this earth sooner than expected, the result of injuries suffered in a car accident.
Born August 18, 1940, at Wilhilnor Farm on Byron Road to Hilbert and Norma (Freeman) Holleman, his life was a product of the American soil. Although he pursued 22 years of formal education culminating with a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Michigan State University, he credited the lessons learned on the farm in Jamestown, Michigan, for the formation of his character and values. His devotion to God, family, and nature, his unrelenting pursuit of knowledge, and deeply ingrained work ethic grew out of the examples set by his parents and grandparents who taught him the rhythm and beauty of rural life.
He marched to the beat of his own drum, sometimes out of step with the rest of the world, but always remained true to the beliefs and values he learned on the farm. The Holleman ancestors farmed in the Netherlands for nearly 500 years, before the promise of land lured them to rural Michigan in 1855. Bill did not take leave of this tradition lightly, nor did he leave the farm to pursue a “better” life – as his parents had developed one of the most prosperous businesses in the county. His parent’s heritage, however, also dictated respect for learning and veneration for the educated. Bill honored that heritage when he pursued a career in science.
The sparsely furnished one-room school house he attended through 8th grade lacked indoor plumbing, but held one extravagance – a large globe suspended from the ceiling. Bill spent hours staring at the globe and examining the rivers, mountains, and countries mapped on its surface, never imagining that he would visit all 50 states and travel to 44 countries during his lifetime.
His world view expanded greatly in large part due to the influence of his life partner, Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Roters, whom he met on a blind date at Hope College in 1961. They married on June 15, 1963. A breathtakingly beautiful woman from the “wicked east,” Bill marveled at his good fortune and to his last days on earth gave thanks for Betty. He never understood what a sophisticated girl from Queens, New York, saw in a country boy from Michigan, and at first, neither did Betty’s father. Betty, however, saw potential in Bill and understood that while they came from starkly different backgrounds, they shared the same core values.
Together, they built a life centered around family, church, and community. The work ethic gained during his early years on the farm translated to his career, where he spent long hours at Abbott Laboratories working on drug development in anti-thrombosis and anti-viral fields. Bill became a Senior Project Leader managing a team of scientists, received an appointment to the prestigious American Society of Biological Chemists, and enjoyed a professional sabbatical year at Harvard University Medical School.
He published multiple papers and held three patents during his career. His early work on renin inhibitors provided the basis for designing protease inhibitors for HIV, helping bring to market a drug cocktail which would inhibit the disease in 95% of AIDS patients. Visits to present papers at international conferences turned into vacations, and he and Betty enjoyed excursions throughout Europe and Japan, traveling with little more than a guidebook and sense of adventure.
He also taught biochemistry and chemistry at Loyola University, Albion College, and later Carthage College, and found that he loved challenging young minds and the rewards of the classroom as much as the laboratory. Bill and Betty lived much of their married life in Libertyville, Illinois, where they built a home on Timber Lane and raised their sons, Bill and Tom. While a lack of opportunities limited his participation in sports as a child, Bill coached his sons’ little league teams, and regularly attended basketball and football games, often leaving the lab for few hours for games, then returning to work late into the night. As an adult, he played softball, bowled in an Abbott league, skied, and enjoyed hiking, swimming in the ocean, watersports, and being outdoors. He gave up running and skiing in the late 1980s when a degenerative neurological disease made it impossible to continue, but gave little ground to this incurable debilitating condition. He fought back with science and stubbornness, refusing to let an uncooperative nervous system interfere with his enjoyment of life.
An active volunteer community leader, he focused much of his time on the Gurnee Community Church. Bill served in a variety of leadership roles including Sunday School Teacher, Deacon, Elder, Board Chairman, and leader of two building campaigns. A talented woodworker and carpenter, he spent countless hours on projects and physical improvements to the church, the most notable being the re-installation of original windows from the church into the new sanctuary. Outside of church, he served two terms as an elected school board member and volunteered for 12 years on the Lake County Regional Planning Commission. A vocal advocate for the environment, he supported causes and politicians/candidates who shared his views.
He volunteered with several local environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, the Lake County Conservation Alliance, and Illinois Citizens Action. His retirement in 1995 allowed him time to pursue his passions: traveling, teaching, investing, woodworking, home remodeling, and birding. He always looked forward to the next vacation. His innate curiosity did not wane with age and drove his learning experiences to his last day. As he reflected on his life, he believed firmly that strong bonds with family and friends eclipsed the importance of career and other successes.
He took pride in his children’s accomplishments and firmly expected his grandchildren to follow in his footsteps, becoming a credit to their communities and families. He thanked God each day, and lived with few regrets, always believing the glass was half full. His autobiography, “My Journey from Byron Road,” included this reflection: “There is a solid sense of having lived something real and good and satisfying – the knowledge of having lived these things can never be lost.” His soul has been reunited with his Creator and his body cremated according to his wishes.
His journey from Byron Road will end as it began, in rural Jamestown, where he will return to the earth for burial alongside his father and mother.
He is survived by his soulmate and one true love for 53 years Mary Elizabeth “Betty” (Roters ’63) Holleman; sons William K. (Amy Brubaker) Holleman ’87 and Thomas E. (Michelle DeMars) Holleman; grandsons Ethan, Gerrit, Matthew, Willem, and Larson Holleman; sister Edith Ann Holleman ’65; brother John Edward (Kathy Garcia) Holleman; his small group members; and lifetime friends who formed his extended family.
of Lake Villa, Illinois, died on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. He was 76. He taught biochemistry and chemistry at Loyola University, Albion College and Carthage. Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Roters ’63 Holleman; sons, William (Amy Brubaker) Holleman ’87 and Thomas (Michelle DeMars) Holleman; five grandsons; sister, Edith Ann Holleman ’65; and brother, John Edward (Kathy Garcia) Holleman.