The Nordeen Family

Much like the beginnings of their relationship, the life and story of UW-Madison alumni Kit and Buzz Nordeen is one of charm, play, hard work, and at times, struggle. The couple met on the tennis court, where both were asked to fill in for a doubles match. From there, a friendship was born, and the two were soon married. Together, they shared a love of travel, wildlife, and above all, sports.

Kit Saunders Nordeen and Buzz Nordeen
Kit Saunders Nordeen and Buzz Nordeen

Kit was a natural athlete, widely known for her tireless work helping other women athletes find opportunities. She led and won the battle for women’s equal rights in UW Athletics. Through years of hard work, and with the help of Title IX, she brought UW Women’s Athletics from intramural status in 1966 to being officially recognized by the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference in 1981. Kit was the first inductee into the UW Women’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1984, and named into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998. Without Kit, the landscape of UW athletics might look a lot different today. The fight for equality in college athletics was never easy, but Kit remained hopeful and committed. Due to Alzheimer’s disease, Kit tragically lost many of the memories of her professional accomplishments.

Signs of memory loss first appeared when Kit was driving. She got lost and couldn’t remember her way home. Tragically, Buzz had seen signs like this before. His first wife, Nora, developed early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and died at age 58 of leukemia. Kit suffered from the most common type of Alzheimer’s disease, late-onset, an illness also suffered by Kit’s late mother and younger brother.

In light of the devastating effect Alzheimer’s disease could have on a person as vital and enthusiastic at Kit, and in memory of his first wife, Nora, Buzz created the Nora Nordeen and Kit Saunders Nordeen Alzheimer’s Disease Research Fund at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. The goal of the fund is aimed at understanding, treating and preventing the disease.

Buzz Nordeen passed away in 2019, Kit Saunders Nordeen passed away in 2021.

We invite you to join the commitment to progress and help advance a cure through your support of the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can make a difference.

In Memory of Kit: Through her unwavering commitment to leveling the playing field for generations of female athletes, Kit will forever be a symbol of progress. Learn more about the legacy of Dr. Kit Saunders Nordeen in this UW Badgers article.