Endowed directorship sets Wisconsin Union apart

Posted By  on Mar 17, 2021.

In late 2020, the Wisconsin Union was granted the extraordinary opportunity to create a million-dollar endowment for the Wisconsin Union Directorship position. To do so, the Union had less than two months to secure $500,000 to match a gift offered through the Morgridge Match, a 70 million-dollar matching gift donated by John and Tashia Morgridge. Endowments are a valuable tool for non-profits like the Wisconsin Union because they provide a perpetual revenue stream that can be used to carry out the mission of the institution. With the help of a most generous anonymous lead gift and additional donations, the Union successfully raised the $500,000 needed to turn this incredible opportunity into reality.

Original drawing done by the state architect before Memorial Union was built.
Original drawing done by the state architect before Memorial Union was built.

Raising significant financial support in short order is not new for the Wisconsin Union. Nearly 100 years ago, construction bids were received for the original Memorial Union. The Wisconsin Union Building Project Committee found out that they were $90,000 short from soliciting the construction project’s bid. They had one week to raise the money or risk losing the bid. The committee called for 10 pledges of $9,000 each, and friends of the Union came through. In 1925, on Veterans Day, a crowd of 5,000 students, faculty, and alumni gathered to watch the groundbreaking ceremony with University of Wisconsin-Madison President Glenn Frank.

Since its founding in 1907, the Wisconsin Union has consistently been named one of the nation’s premier college unions. This is due in large part to the core foundational philosophy and mission held since its beginning; that is the belief in providing a broad range of programs and services and real leadership opportunities to students through out-of-classroom experiences, being wholly accessible for the entire campus, and readying UW-Madison graduates to be the leaders of tomorrow.

Alternating images of Memorial Union from long in the past and now.
Historic Memorial Union compared to modern Memorial Union

Through the generosity of the Morgridges and the donors who provided the necessary matching funds, this endowment helps ensure that the Wisconsin Union can continue to uphold and build on these foundational beliefs through the evolving of existing programs, the creation of new ones. and a strong student leadership program.

As Wisconsin Union Director and Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Mark Guthier stated, “[The endowment] provides us with the resources we need to make sure we’re providing our students and members the best programs and services in the most innovative ways possible.”

Student distributing cotton candy at Winter Carnival on the Memorial Union Terrace
On February 6, 2020, numerous students gathered at Memorial Union Terrace for the Winter Carnival. Captured by Suncana Pavlic.

A third of the annual interest revenue generated by this endowment will offset salary costs for the Wisconsin Union Director position (thus the reason it’s called an endowed directorship), and the remaining two-thirds will support student-based programs, enhancing facilities’ effectiveness, residencies, sabbaticals, and creating a virtual environment that fosters the Union’s student-first formula values. Whether it’s learning how to best serve the campus community by taking benchmarking trips to other unions or anticipating students’ future needs, the endowment makes it all possible.

Former Union Director Ted Crabb remarked, “There is a broad range of how this money can be used that ultimately is dependent on the Union staff and students. What are our current needs and future directions, and how can we continue to be leaders across the country? Those are the questions the endowment allows us to answer.”

students in masks studying
Students studying in the Union

Both current and former directors noted that personal interactions with students were the highlights of their roles. From seeing a student-led project come to fruition to giving advice and providing support to undergraduates, the most rewarding part of their positions came from collaborating with students. Their commitment to such student leadership is a Union legacy that will be ensured by the endowment.

The endowment also represents the intergenerational network of loyalty that supports the Wisconsin Union.

Guthier says, “It is set up to bring together the students, faculty, staff and alumni to generate ideas for how to spend it every year and then to meet again to discuss how it all went at the end of the year.”

In fact, he’s hoping to begin brainstorming this semester to implement the first endowment-enabled program in summer 2022.

The Wisconsin Union is grateful for the continued support and donations it receives, without which none of this would have been possible.

Link to view the article in Terrace Views: https://terraceviews.org/endowed-directorship-sets-wisconsin-union-apart-as-premier-college-union/