UW–Madison receives record-breaking gift to retain and hire faculty

$100 million donation will double endowed chairs and professorships

The University of Wisconsin (UW)Madison announced the single largest donation in the school's history on Saturday, a $100 million gift aimed at supporting and hiring distinguished faculty, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

The gift comes from UWMadison alumni couple John and Tashia Morgridge, and is the lead gift in a comprehensive fundraising campaign to be announced by 2016. The money will go toward supporting faculty through endowed chairs and endowed professorships.

UWMadison Chancellor Rebecca Blank explains that chaired positions can be helpful for recruiting and retaining high-quality faculty members. "Being a chaired professor means that you are at the top of your profession," she says, so the gift will enable the university "to not only retain faculty that we might otherwise lose, but also attract some real stars here—both younger faculty who are rising fast as well as people who have already established themselves."

Blank has previously voiced concerns that UWMadison would have difficulty competing for faculty talent as the result of declining budgets.

Currently, the university has 34 fully endowed chairs and 102 endowed professorships. The gift from the Morgridges will double those numbers, according the university. Blank also announced that future donors who participate in the campaign will have the opportunity to name the positions they support.

Related: Disruptive innovations in university fundraising

The gift from the alumni couple—who graduated together in 1955—is only one of their many charitable pursuits. In 2010 they signed a giving pledge to donate at least half of their material net worth during their lifetimes. John Morgridge has been active in philanthropy since leaving his position as an executive at Cisco Systems (Herzog, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11/15).

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