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Kohl donates $10M to support La Follette School’s outreach, teaching and research

May 12, 2019 By Lisa Hildebrand

Representing Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate for 24 years, Herb Kohl demonstrated his deep commitment to public service and his ethos of civility in public debate and policymaking. A $10 million gift announced today from Herb Kohl Philanthropies to the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs will extend the reach of that legacy.

Kohl’s donation, the Kohl Initiative, focuses on three priorities that will expand the School’s public outreach mission, advance the training of future public leaders and support influential research by faculty and students. It is the largest donation in La Follette School history.

Photo of former Sen. Herb Kohl

Former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl Photo: Jeff Miller

“Today, more than ever, we need strong public and private sector leaders – people like Sen. Kohl, who thoughtfully and respectfully discuss thorny policy issues,” said La Follette School Director and Professor Susan Webb Yackee. “UW–Madison has seen tremendous growth in civic engagement among its students, and this gift will allow the La Follette School to educate many more future leaders, who will tackle the world’s toughest problems with an evidence-based approach.”

Chancellor Rebecca Blank said the university is deeply grateful for Sen. Kohl’s generosity to his alma mater, his support of education across the state, and his decades-long service to the state and country in the U.S. Senate.

“Sen. Kohl has shown lifelong dedication to UW–Madison and this gift will provide tremendous opportunities for our students, faculty, staff and community,” said Blank, who holds an appointment as a La Follette School faculty member. “The Kohl Initiative embodies the Wisconsin Idea ­– especially the initiative’s outreach innovation fund, which will help expand the school’s impact in the state and the nation.”

Sen. Kohl, who was a founding member of the La Follette School’s Board of Visitors, believes the School is critically important for solving many of the country’s most difficult issues.

“Our democracy is being threatened by bitter partisanship, and the La Follette School is poised to lead by example – fostering cooperation, respectful discourse, and service to others,” said Kohl. “The school’s commitment to be a convener of thoughtful debate and evidence-based research provides a critical path for moving our country forward.”

In 2016, Sen. Kohl’s $1.5 million donation to the La Follette School launched the Herb Kohl Public Service Research Competition, which has provided financial support for collaborative faculty-student research that informs critical public policy and governance debates. Community outreach is a key component of the research competition.

Sen. Kohl’s most recent gift will extend the research competition and will support several new efforts. The Kohl Initiative will allow the school to educate more students, support undergraduate public policy internship opportunities, increase partnerships with nonpartisan organizations, host conferences on critical policy topics, and teach more high-demand classes in areas such as public and nonprofit leadership, economic development and social entrepreneurship.