News and analysis
November 15, 2014

U. of Wisc. Gets $100-Million Gift

Jeff Miller/UW-Madison, University Communications

John and Tashia Morgridge

Philanthropists John and Tashia Morgridge have given $100-million to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, they announced Saturday.

The donation is the most recent in a long line of gifts the Cisco Systems chairman emeritus and his wife have given to their alma mater over the years. It also is the lead gift of the university’s planned capital campaign, which officials say won’t start until 2015 or 2016.

Co-chairs of the campaign’s planning committee, the Morgridges said they want the $100-million to support university faculty and plan to use it to match gifts from others who endow professorships, chairs, and distinguished chair positions.

While the university now has 34 endowed chairs and 102 endowed professorships, the Morgridges' gift could end up doubling those numbers, say university officials.

"This is just a wonderful gift because if it’s successful because of the match, it could raise up to $200-million in total," said Rebecca Blank, the university’s chancellor.

The Morgridges said they decided to give the money now because they are worried about the cuts in government support for public universities, which are struggling for money much more than private institutions.

"The private institutions are raising an incredible amount of money," said Mr. Morgridge. "But you have a growing gap between a relatively small number of elite schools and whole lot of public institutions, and the latter do the vast majority of educating the people in our country, so it is troubling to see that asset deteriorate relative to the strength and growth of the private institutions."

He pointed out that the couple’s alma mater has done so well over the years because it was the beneficiary of a period of generous post-World War II government funding for public universities. In today’s climate of austerity, however, the Morgridges say it is crucial that private donors step up to fill in the gaps, and they are hoping their donation inspires others to give.

Mr. Morgridge graduated from the university’s Wisconsin School of Business in 1955, and Ms. Morgridge, a retired special-education teacher, graduated that same year from the university’s School of Education.

They have signed the Giving Pledge, an agreement by very wealthy individuals and families to give at least half of their fortunes away during their lifetimes. Including this most recent donation, the couple have given more than $440-million to nonprofits so far, including at least $236.5-million to the university, according The Chronicle’s tally.

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