Morgridges give $100 million to invest in UW-Madison faculty

November 14, 2014 By John Lucas

Photo: Morgridges

Alumni Tashia and John Morgridge acknowledge audience applause following Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s announcement of the couple’s $100 million gift to the University of Wisconsin–Madison during a Van Hise Society dinner event at Shannon Hall in the Memorial Union on Nov. 14.

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The University of Wisconsin–Madison has received a landmark gift of $100 million from John and Tashia Morgridge, representing the largest single contribution from individual donors in the history of the institution.

The Morgridge gift will inspire and match donations for new and enhanced professorships, chairs and distinguished chairs in an effort to recruit and retain a world-class faculty, according to Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

“We are indebted to the Morgridges for their leadership, support and investment in the future of this university and the state of Wisconsin,” Blank says. “This extraordinary gift, and the gifts it will inspire, will shape the UW’s future in ways we cannot even foresee right now.”

Photo: Morgridge Institute for Research lab

A lab assistant at work in the Morgridge Institute for Research, established with a previous $100 million gift from the Morgridges.

The contribution represents the lead gift of the university’s upcoming comprehensive campaign, which is currently in the planning phase. Both John and Tashia Morgridge serve as co-chairs of the campaign planning committee. An official announcement of the campaign is anticipated in 2015 or 2016.

The gift was announced on the scoreboard at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday after the first quarter of the Wisconsin-Nebraska game.

Originally from Wauwatosa, Wis., the Morgridges are also responsible for the next two largest gifts in UW history, including a total of $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 San Jose, California company into the leading global supplier of computer networking products.

Photo: Wisconsin Idea Room in Education Building

A $32 million Morgridge donation funded expansion of the Education Building.

The Morgridges joined Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates in signing “The Giving Pledge,” an effort by philanthropists to encourage their peers to give away at least 50 percent of their material wealth during their lifetimes or in their wills. By doing so publicly, the group hopes to inspire others to give.

In the past, the Morgridges’ generosity has helped shape numerous corners of campus, including:

—As mentioned, a total of $100 million to fund the Morgridge Institute for Research, housed in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.  

—More than $32 million to renovate and build an additional wing onto the School of Education building on Bascom Hill.

—Contributions to establish the Morgridge Center for Public Service and the renovation of the iconic Red Gym.

Photo: Red Gym

Another donation by the couple enabled renovation of the Red Gym.

—John is a naming partner for the Wisconsin School of Business. The naming partnership was formed when 13 individuals joined together to donate $85 million to preserve the name of the school for at least 20 years.

—They have supported the work of faculty, having endowed chairs in reading, computer science, economics, geoscience,business, pediatric nursing and health systems innovation.

Their philanthropy has also ranged across the state of Wisconsin. Separate from their UW–Madison gifts, the Morgridges donated $188 million to establish the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars, an endowment to provide grants each year to low-income students attending one of Wisconsin’s public colleges or universities.

Another $8 million was donated to the Wisconsin Technology Initiative, providing funding to K-12 schools to advance the use of technology in learning environments throughout the state of Wisconsin.

The most recent Morgridge gift is devoted to funding faculty excellence, providing a 1-to-1 match for any other donor who makes a gift to endow a professorship, a chair or a distinguished chair. The university currently has 34 fully endowed chairs and 102 fully endowed professorships,and the effort could double that number.

“This is a very Wisconsin gift and a gift very like the Morgridges – it’s not about them,” Blank says. “The names of every one of these endowed chairs will be those of the matching donors, not of the Morgridges.”

Photo: Wisconsin School of Business banner

John Morgridge is a member of the Wisconsin School of Business naming partnership.

“Faculty are the most critical and durable part of the human capital underpinning a university,” says Mike Knetter, president and chief executive officer of the UW Foundation. “Great researchers are inspiring teachers and role models — they dedicate their lives to making a difference in how we understand the world or how we might change it for the better.”  

While the UW has many competitive advantages for faculty, the distinction and resources that accompany these awards will help ensure that faculty’s quality.

By designating the gift for endowed chairs, the impact will ripple out to graduate students who are conducting research, and thousands of students who learn from world-class scholars and researchers, Blank notes.  

In recognition of the landmark gift, Michael Shannon, chair of the Development Committee of the UW Foundation, has announced that a group of friends and admirers of the Morgridges have established the John and Tashia Morgridge Chair in Leadership.  This chair, now the largest at the university, will be awarded to the chancellor and its income will be used to support the chancellor’s top priorities.

“The chair reflects both the opportunity that the Morgridges have given to others to create awards for faculty support and their longstanding support of chancellors over the years through their service to the university,” says Knetter.