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University of Wisconsin, Madison


Thomas A. Costello Character and Courage Award

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Thomas (“Tommy”) Costello (1997 – 2021) grew up in Minnesota and had a passion and zest for life that is rare to find. He achieved great things in a life that was filled with adventure, a stellar work ethic, high integrity and a deep understanding of the importance of relationships. His 24 years of life were too short, but he achieved more in his 24 years and made a bigger impact than most people do in a lifetime.

Tommy achieved academic excellence by graduating from UW-Madison with a triple major and 3.7 GPA.  Tom was actively involved in several clubs and activities at UW, Madison including the Investment Banking Club, Insight Wisconsin (Founder), earned his fifth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, Economics Club, Federal Reserve Challenge and was a 2017 TEDx speaker.   Tom also spent a semester studying abroad in Spain. Tom achieved his professional goals by living his dream of becoming an investment banker in New York.

However, his life included moments where he had to face down adversity including a battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma at age 15. While battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, his father, Pat, fought a battle of his own after a "routine" heart surgery to repair a heart valve that put him into cardiac arrest. While his dad was in a medically induced coma with an uncertain future, Thomas stepped up to support his mom and two sisters. He missed very few days of school despite intense side effects from treatment, never complained and kept a positive attitude through his six months of chemotherapy.  Tom focused on what he could control and poured his energy into academics and extra-curricular activities. He was chosen to give his high school commencement speech and graduated from high school Magna Cum Laude.

His giving nature led Tommy to become both a formal and informal mentor to anyone who asked. Thomas became a valuable volunteer for Make A Wish as both a Wish Granter and a Company Speaker, was a spokesperson for the Lymphoma/Leukemia Society, captain of Relay for Life teams in both high school and college, a Relay For Life event speaker, and he was legendary for his mentorship in the Investment Banking Club. While at Rothschild & Co, he was proud of the Badger intern 100% offer accept rate, he spearheaded the establishment of the University as one of six “core schools” and helped recruit the largest class of UW-Madison investment banking interns to a single firm.

Tommy also had a very keen awareness of the importance of building strong relationships both personally and professionally.  He was known for being a great friend and co-worker, treated people with respect, was inclusive and made everyone feel welcome, as well as always being willing to share his knowledge and skills.


  • Must be enrolled in the UW-Madison as an undergraduate, preferably the Wisconsin School of Business studying Finance or Risk Management or in the College of Letters and Science studying Economics as an honor student

  • Must be either a Sophomore or Junior


  • Demonstrate academic excellence while selflessly fostering community involvement including through mentorship, volunteerism, and leadership

  • Describe how you are working hard to achieve your dreams (preferable but not a requirement of becoming an investment banker), despite any personal barriers that you have had to overcome

  • Explain how you emulate Tommy’s resilient spirit and have had to demonstrate courage while overcoming adversity in your life

  • Describe how you have achieved your goals by going well beyond your comfort zone

  • Elaborate on your passion for international travel and how that has given you a stronger appreciation for the gifts that you were given and your outlook on relationships and different perspectives

Application Process

  • Write an essay (500-1,000 words) or film a short video of yourself (max 3 mins) explaining how you exemplify one or more of the above attributes that describe who Tommy was: an individual with immense courage, a person with good character and someone who absolutely loved their career as an investment banker. Please reference the attributes section above for potential essay topics.  

  • The selection committee will narrow the application pool based on essays, then will virtually interview the finalists. The application window will close on June 1st, 2024.

Award Details

The Thomas A Costello Legacy Foundation will be giving out one-time payments of $2,400 to the top three applicants with the strongest essay and interview. The amount of $2,400 is in honor of the age (24) that Tommy passed away. The scholarships will be chosen for Spring 2024, awardees contacted in Summer 2024, and scholarship awards will be paid directly to the University of Wisconsin, Madison to cover tuition costs for the 2024/2025 school year.

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