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Three honored for innovation, entrepreneurial excellence

April 18, 2024 By Katie McMullen
Four people pose for the camera, three of them holding trophies.

Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin, second from left, poses with the winners of the 2024 Chancellor’s Entrepreneurial Achievement Award at the Gordon Dining & Event Center on April 18. From left are James Dahlberg, Mnookin, Dorri McWhorter and Mark Bakken.

This week, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Office of the Chancellor, in partnership with the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association, recognized Mark Bakken, James Dahlberg, and Dorri McWhorter as recipients of the 2024 Chancellor’s Entrepreneurial Achievement Award.

“UW–Madison is a hub of innovation and entrepreneurial excellence, driven by our alumni, students, staff and faculty and their curiosity, passion for problem-solving, and desire to make a difference,” said Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin. “I am delighted to recognize three outstanding members of our Badger community who are shepherding life-changing innovations into the world, all while creating jobs, economic impact, and social capital.”

Established in 2011, the Chancellor’s Entrepreneurial Achievement Award recognizes individuals with ties to UW–Madison who have contributed to economic growth and social good, served as entrepreneurial models for the UW community, and inspired the campus culture of entrepreneurship. Through their achievements, these outstanding entrepreneurs exemplify the Wisconsin Idea — UW–Madison’s longstanding commitment to benefiting the world beyond the boundaries of campus.

More on this year’s winners:


Founder and Managing Partner, HealthX Ventures

Mark Bakken leads Madison-based HealthX Ventures, a digital healthcare-focused venture capital firm. Since 2015, HealthX has raised $137 million, invested in 34 companies — 17 of which started in Wisconsin — and was named a Founder-Friendly Investor by Inc. Magazine. Known as a serial entrepreneur, Bakken is a Wisconsin information technology leader who has invested in 11 different venture funds and more than 80 individual startups. Collectively, his portfolio companies have raised more than $1.1 billion in venture capital.

“I never would have gone down the path of entrepreneurship if I hadn’t met Mark,” said Rachel Neill, CEO, Carex Consulting Group. “Mark has been so instrumental in paving the way for entrepreneurs and people interested in entrepreneurship by freely giving his time, his mentoring and often times his capital to get businesses off the ground.”

A UW–Madison computer sciences graduate, Bakken rowed for crew as a student and worked for the Division of Information Technology before founding his first startup, Goliath Networks. In addition to running HealthX Ventures, Bakken serves on the boards of the Wisconsin Technology Council and the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, and he is a mentor for Creative Destruction Lab-Wisconsin.


Professor Emeritus of Biomolecular Chemistry, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Co-Founder, Third Wave Technologies and Cambridge BioTech Corporation

Throughout his career, James Dahlberg has fused academic excellence with an entrepreneurial mindset, translating basic research into powerful technologies for leading startups. He played a key role in merging UW innovation with entrepreneurship, impacting the campus and beyond.

After joining UW–Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health in 1969, Dahlberg’s research on DNA and RNA led to multiple patents through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). During the 1980s biotech boom, Dahlberg co-founded Cambridge BioTech Corp, and in 1993, he and UW chemistry professor Lloyd Smith co-founded the UW spinout Third Wave Technologies. Third Wave went public in 2001 and was sold in 2008 for $580 million. Its intellectual property was later licensed by Exact Sciences, now a multibillion-dollar cancer screening and diagnostics company. Dahlberg’s discoveries not only benefitted countless patients but also contribute to Madison’s standing as a national center for biohealth innovation.

“Jim never lost his commitment to an academic research career,” said Brad Schwartz, CEO, Morgridge Institute for Research. “And along the way, he came up with something that would be useful, and he helped turn it into a company. That to me is an academic entrepreneur. And he demonstrated for everybody that it could be done.”

An inventor on 37 U.S. and international patents, Dahlberg is a trustee and was interim director of the Morgridge Institute for Research, and he served as science adviser to Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle. His many honors include membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the European Molecular Biology Organization.


President and CEO, YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago

A Wisconsin School of Business graduate, Dorri McWhorter is renowned for her social enterprise business leadership. As President and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, McWhorter has worked to modernize membership offerings and create partnerships with Nike and Peloton. Currently, she is leading the YMCA’s development of a downtown Community Hub within a mixed-income, net-zero carbon emissions apartment complex, as well as a west side Sankofa Wellness Village that will feature healthcare facilities, a grocery store and a business incubator.

“Dorri started out in the private sector,” said Molly Silverman, Chief Growth & Engagement Officer, YMCA Metro Chicago. “She took that expertise and that entrepreneurial spirit and has now applied it to the social impact sector, where we are trying to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.”

Previously, McWhorter was a partner at the accounting firm Crowe LLP, held senior positions with Snap-on Inc. and Booz Allen Hamilton, and served as CEO of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. She is a 2019 Inductee into the Chicago Innovation Hall of Fame, and she is featured in the Stephen Gyllenhaal documentary Uncharitable. Her civic and philanthropic leadership include board service for Common Impact, 1871 (Technology Business Accelerator), and the Wisconsin School of Business External Advisory Board.

People sitting in an audience laugh and smile.

Guests enjoy the presentations at the Entrepreneurial Achievement Awards ceremony April 18 at the Gordon Dining & Event Center.