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Ceremony honors Sandy Wilcox’s legacy at the UW Foundation

October 14, 2010 By Chris DuPre

On a sun-splashed late afternoon, colleagues, friends and campus partners joined Wednesday at the Porter Boathouse to fete Andrew A. “Sandy” Wilcox and celebrate his 22 years as president of the University of Wisconsin Foundation.

Wilcox assumes the title of president emeritus on Saturday, Oct. 16, through his retirement at the end of the year. Former Wisconsin School of Business Dean Michael Knetter is the new foundation president and chief executive officer, and Wilcox will assist Knetter in his transition.

UW Foundation President Andrew A. “Sandy” Wilcox, who has announced his retirement, and his wife, Mindy, listen to comments honoring Wilcox’s 22 years of service during an event held at the Porter Boathouse on Oct. 13, 2010. At the event, Chancellor Biddy Martin announced that two scholarships for study-abroad programs in France and Asia have been established and a racing sailing boat maintained by the UW Navy ROTC for racing has been named in Wilcox’s honor.

Photo: Jeff Miller

Befitting a U.S. Navy veteran who was Officer-in-Charge of a Swift Boat in Vietnam and recipient of a Bronze Star, the Navy Combat Action Medal, the Purple Heart and the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, the festivities at the boathouse on the shore of Lake Mendota took on a maritime theme.

In her remarks noting Wilcox’s tenure and accomplishments, Chancellor Biddy Martin said, “Sandy is known for his tremendous leadership in navigating our development ship for 22 years.”

In 1988, Wilcox became the second president of the UW Foundation, succeeding Robert Rennebohm. Since then, the foundation’s assets under management have grown from $190 million to $2.3 billion, gift receipts have totaled close to $3 billion and distributions to the University of Wisconsin–Madison have totaled more than $2 billion.

 “That’s extraordinary,” Martin said. “Last year, in the midst of a recession, the foundation transferred $228 million to the University of Wisconsin–Madison.”

Alan Fish, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Planning and Management, recounted a story about working with Wilcox to raise private funds to build the Kohl Center, a $72 million project undergirded by $49 million in gift funds.

“When you talk about someone who under-promises and over-delivers, that’s Sandy Wilcox,” Fish said.

During Wilcox’s tenure, 45 major campus building projects have been completed, are under construction or are in the design phase. Of the total $1.9 billion in building costs, $1.1 billion has been generated through gifts, close to 60 percent.

The growth in private funding for projects has allowed the university to be a competitive and forward-looking institution, Fish said. He noted in-progress projects such as the expanded Chazen Museum of Art, which is being funded 100 percent through gifts; the School of Human Ecology addition, 50 percent funded through gifts; and the Nursing Science Center, which will have almost a third of the cost covered through private giving.

“It’s a really incredible legacy,” Fish said. “Sandy, we have you and your team to thank.”

Fish also noted the wording on a plaque on the Porter Boathouse that reads, “We cannot cross the sea merely by staring at the water.”

“Sandy, you didn’t stare,” he said. “Thank you.”

Martin noted the impact that Wilcox and the foundation have had not only on the physical campus, but also the faculty, staff and students of the university in generating scholarship funds, fellowships, professorships and more.

“Every one of us is touched by what the foundation has done,” she said.

Martin announced that two study abroad scholarships have been named in Wilcox’s honor, one for study in Asia and one for France.

In honor of Wilcox’s service and interest in the Navy and naval history, a one-person, Laser Class training sailboat for the university’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) was named for him.

University ROTC commanders, officers and students were on hand. Taking part in a tradition more than 500 years old, Wilcox and his wife, Mindy, christened the Sandy Wilcox.

Established in 1945, the University of Wisconsin Foundation is a private, non-profit corporation that raises, invests and distributes funds for the benefit of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. For more about the foundation, visit