Morgridge match exceeds goal: $250 million raised for faculty positions

September 8, 2015 By Greg Bump

John and Tashia Morgridge inspired more than 1,000 other donors with their matching gift challenge.

John and Tashia Morgridge issued a challenge last November to fellow University of Wisconsin–Madison alumni — they would match up to $100 million in donations to fund new and enhanced endowments for named professorships, chairs and distinguished chairs at the university.

University leaders thought it would take two to three years to fulfill the match. Instead, within seven months, more than 1,000 generous donors responded. In the end, those donations reached $125 million, an amount the Morgridges agreed to match.

In total, the Morgridge match effort has generated nearly $250 million in new endowment dollars for the university. These gifts will be invested in the UW Foundation‘s endowment and once fully funded, will generate more than $11 million in annual payments to schools and colleges for the faculty who hold these chairs.

By the time these gifts are paid, UW–Madison will have 300 fully endowed professorships and chairs, up from 142. These new faculty chairs are located in every school and college.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank says the gift is an investment in Wisconsin students for generations to come. She said it is important to note that state, federal and tuition dollars can’t be used to fund named faculty chairs.

“The generosity of John and Tashia Morgridge and the hundreds of proud Badgers who joined them will transform our ability to retain and attract top talent,” Blank says. “This is about much more than the dollars that go to the faculty members. It is about the ability to recruit and retain outstanding faculty who attract top graduate and undergraduate students and compete for federal research dollars.”

This gift is unusual since the Morgridges provided funds for the matching donors to use in naming their own chairs. 

“This gift does everything you could ever wish for in a lead gift for a campaign-it is extremely generous in magnitude, it is aimed at a top priority, and it is designed to encourage others by giving all the recognition to matching donors,” said Mike Knetter, CEO of the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association. “John and Tashia lead by example in every way. Wisconsin is a different place because of them and they are now inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.”

Originally from Wauwatosa, Wis., the Morgridges are also responsible for a number of other significant gifts, including several gifts totaling $100 million to establish the Morgridge Institute for Research and $32 million to renovate and expand the School of Education building.

A 1955 graduate of the School of Education, Tashia Frankfurth Morgridge has maintained close ties with the school, serving on its board of visitors and, with her husband, sponsoring scholarships to support students preparing to become teachers. A retired special education teacher, she has been a volunteer teacher for students with learning disabilities.

John Morgridge, a 1955 graduate of the Wisconsin School of Business, has served as president, CEO and chairman of the board of Cisco Systems, Inc., and is credited with building the company into the leading global supplier of computer networking products.