Morgridge Match exceeds all expectations

I am very pleased to announce the results of a major gift which invests in the future of the university and which is already having positive impacts across campus. As you may recall, last fall, two of the university’s most generous benefactors, John and Tashia Morgridge, made the largest individual gift in the university’s history – $100 million – to match gifts from other donors who wished to endow a professorship, chair, or distinguished chair.

Chair and professorship funds help us recruit and retain outstanding faculty members by providing the status of a chaired and named professorship, such as the Hilldale and Bascom professorships. Endowed chairs pay out funds which are used to pay a share of salary and provide research funding to the person holding the chair. We cannot fund named faculty chairs with state or tuition dollars or with federal dollars. Only donor dollars can provide this resource.

The Morgridge gift matched dollars from other donors to establish an endowment for a new named chair or to increase the endowment of a previously established chair, funded at a lower level. This allowed a donor to give $1 million and fund a $2 million endowed chair, with a name selected by the donor.

When the Morgridges’ challenge was publicly announced, I had a number of conversations, guessing how long it would take us to match $100 million. Most people (myself included) figured that it would take us two to three years to fully utilize this gift.

But I should never underestimate the support and generosity of Badger alumni. Within five months of the gift announcement, interest was so strong in this matching program that the Morgridges agreed to match anyone who made a commitment by June 8 rather than holding to a cap of $100 million. Ultimately, by the deadline date and only seven months after the gift was announced, more than 1,000 generous donors stepped forward (individually or in groups) to make an investment in the current and future faculty of the University of Wisconsin, providing more than $124 million in matching dollars.

By the time these gifts are paid, rather than 142 fully endowed professorships and chairs, we will have 300. The ability this provides for us to retain and attract top talent is transformative.

In total, the Morgridge Match effort has generated nearly $250 million in new endowment dollars for the university. These gifts will be invested in the UW Foundation’s endowment and once fully funded, will generate more than $11 million in annual payments to schools and colleges for the faculty who hold these chairs.

Every school and college received at least one new or enhanced chair from the Morgridge Match and the positive effect of these gifts is being felt across campus. For example, the brand new Department of Emergency Medicine in the School of Medicine and Public Health was able to create two endowed chairs in its first year, adding remarkable momentum to its rapid national ascendency. The School of Education has enhanced its endowment for two chairs, which are helping to retain the most sought-after and experienced scholars in the education field. L&S, our largest college at the UW–Madison with more than 750 faculty members, will now have 41 new fully endowed chairs and professorships in departments from History to Computer Sciences.

At UW–Madison, our base budget is like a chair with four legs: public investment through tax dollars; tuition and fees; grant funding (primarily federal dollars) for research; and philanthropy. Without any one of those four sources of funds, the chair collapses.

Over generations, Wisconsin taxpayers have invested in this institution, building it into a world-class place of higher education and research. The state funding and tuition dollars we receive through the biennial budget process pays our faculty and staff, maintains our buildings, and provides financial aid to students with need. In other words, it is absolutely crucial to being able to function as a university.

Funding that we receive from private individuals or companies helps us to leverage our state and tuition dollars. Private donors typically want to fund things that would not happen without their support, often things for which we do not have other dollars available. This includes such items as the renovation of Memorial Union, core support for research centers, dollars for internships or public outreach, or named chairs for our top faculty.

I am incredibly appreciative of the generosity of John and Tashia Morgridge and of every donor who participated in the Morgridge Match. Thank you all! This campus is blessed by your support and generosity.