Family creates scholarship to honor longtime Stegner fellow James Holtkamp

Ariane Holtkamp Dansie always knew she wanted to create a scholarship to honor her father, lawyer James Holtkamp. She admires his dedication and love for the law, his private practice, his clients and the law students he mentored. And he is why she became a lawyer.

Dansie figured she would create that legacy at the University of Utah after her father passed away.

But her father’s declining health, and the fact he recently turned 70, made Dansie and her siblings—Rachel Holtkamp Marshall, Allison Holtkamp and David Roberts Holtkamp—reconsider. (Another brother, Brent William Holtkamp, passed away several years ago.)

The family recently surprised their father with a book full of letters written by his friends and colleagues—and the knowledge that the S.J. Quinney College of Law created the James Arnold Holtkamp Scholarship Fund for exceptional students who want to work in environmental law and policy.

In just a couple of months, 82 donors have given $20,000. Once the fund reaches $25,000 it becomes endowed, which is the family’s goal.

“When he was healthy, he gave so much to this community. He loved supporting the students. He always made himself available,” Dansie said. “It seemed like a nice way to say his life and his hard work will still be benefitting students and blessing their lives even though he can’t be doing that physically anymore.”

Holtkamp, an attorney at Holland & Hart, spent more than 40 years specializing in environmental law, assisting clients on climate change, air quality, water pollution control and other matters, as well as advising international governments and NGOs on natural resources, environmental conservation and energy product development, according to his children.

Until recently, he served as a senior fellow at the College of Law’s Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment. Dansie said it was difficult for him to give up adjunct teaching because he found mentoring so rewarding.

The knowledge of the scholarship, which will go to a second- or third-year student, has brought him a lot of joy. And that’s why Dansie recommends anyone thinking of creating a legacy scholarship do it while the person for whom the scholarship is named is alive. “It has had a huge impact on his psychological wellbeing, his happiness. … we’ve had this tremendous groundswell of support because people want him to know they care about him.”

Creating a scholarship was easy—it took a phone call to Kevin Carrillo, director of development, and it was set up before any money had been given, Dansie said. The family was also assured by Reyes Aguilar, associate dean for admission and financial aid, that any amount they raised would help and could be combined with other scholarships to make a real difference for students.

Helping law students who want to go into environmental law is important to the family because many of the students Holtkamp mentored want to work for organizations or governments instead of seeking higher paying jobs in private practice, Dansie said. Reducing their student debt through the scholarship would allow them the chance to make that choice.

Dansie, who specializes in estate planning as an attorney at Durham Jones & Pinegar, credits the College of Law, and her father, for her successful career. The U’s recruiting office led her to her firm and she still uses what she learned at law school in her day-to-day research and communication with clients. And classes she took from Nancy McLaughlin, a law professor and expert in conservation easements, continue to help Dansie as she helps her own clients plan their estates. “The U really focuses on areas of the law that you are going to see as a practitioner in Utah,” Dansie said.

Her father’s respect for the field of estate planning led Dansie to become an estate planner.

“A lot of his traits I try to emulate because of the kind, good person he is,” she said.