Investing in Nelson

Extraordinary vision, generosity establish three new professorships in the Nelson Institute

In fall 2014, UW alumni John and Tashia Morgridge (class of 1955) made an inspirational $100 million gift to UW-Madison that provided a dollar-for-dollar match to any new professorship fund established at a level of $500,000 or more before a June deadline. The Nelson Institute is pleased to announce that the following professorships have been established as part of the Morgridge Match Program:

The Nelson Institute Professorship in Water Resources (established by John and Linda Nelson and supported generously by Sal and Judy Troia, Jeff Rudd and Jeanne Bissell, and several WRM alumni) will guarantee the continued success and expansion of the institute’s Water Resources Management (WRM) program, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015. It will also provide dedicated, endowed faculty salary support and discretionary funds to advance research, problem-solving and stakeholder engagement on issues related to lakes, watersheds, groundwater and streams.

The Bradshaw-Knight Professorship in the Environmental Humanities (established by Jay and Renee Knight) will provide dedicated support and discretionary funds for the director of the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History and Environment (CHE) and ensure that UW-Madison remains a world leader in the study of the environmental humanities – fields that concern themselves not only with the mechanisms of environmental change, but with their human meanings. CHE is the campus crucible where natural scientists, social scientists and humanities scholars come together – an excellent example of the interdisciplinary scholarship that is the trademark of the Nelson Institute.

The John P. Holton Chair in Health and the Environment (established by John P. Holton) will provide dedicated, endowed faculty salary support and flexible funds to support and encourage cross-campus relationships and interdisciplinary excellence in the area of health and its relationship to the environment. The Chair, to be held initially by Nelson Institute professor and Nobel laureate Jonathan Patz, will advance research, problem-solving and stakeholder engagement on issues related to health and the environment, determinants and outcomes of health and wellbeing, and the intersections of heath and climate, water, energy, air, land and food systems.

Introducing our Transformative Donors

The Nelson Institute gratefully acknowledges the following individuals, who, over the past year, have collectively ensured the future health vitality of the institute:

Sal and Judy Troia

Sal and Judy have for many years been major supporters of the Nelson Institute. Not only have the Troias provided tremendous sponsorship support of the Earth Day Conference, they have also recently made a significant gift in support of the new Professorship in Water Resources Fund.

Sal, who retired after a 28-year banking career (including service as president of M&I Bank), is a member of the Nelson Institute Board of Visitors. During fall 2014, Sal chaired the institute’s Green Economy Working Group, which helped develop a strategic engagement plan to guide the institute’s ventures within the private sector. He is also a member of the Bascom Hill Society, serves on the Friends of the UW Arboretum board and the Yahara Lakes Association board, and is involved with many other community and educational organizations, including Porchlight. Sal is a UW alumnus and holds a BBA from the Wisconsin School of Business (‘62).

James and Renee Knight

Longtime supporters of the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History and Environment, the Knights recently provided a major gift to establish the Bradshaw-Knight Professorship in the Environmental Humanities, ensuring that UW-Madison will continue to be a world leader in this field and a destination for the very best scholars. The Knights have also been foundational supporters of Tales from Planet Earth.

James (Jay) is a UW alumnus (MA anthropology ‘89), emeritus member of the Nelson Board of Visitors, and president of the Bradshaw-Knight Foundation, which supports organizationsthat unite the advancement of sustainable means of life on the planet with the maintenance of communities of human scale, social and economic justice, and the ethical treatment of animals. The foundation also supports urban agriculture initiatives and invests in films about environmental justice.

John P. Holton

John Holton is a UW alumnus (BA history ‘72, MS industrial engineering ‘75), a member of the UW Foundation Board, and owner of JWS Foundation, Inc. John became well acquainted with the Nelson Institute via the campus’ Livable Cities initiative; he has, however, been engaged with professor Jonathan Patz, a faculty affiliate of the institute, for several years. John’s extraordinary commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship, activity and engagement, to the Nelson Institute, and to the potential of the UW-Madison campus was recently exemplified by his establishment of the John P. Holton Chair in Health and the Environment.

Jeff Rudd and Jeanne Bissell

Jeff and Jeanne have made several leadership gifts, generating impacts and enthusiasm across many areas of the institute. They established the Nelson Institute Political Ecology Scholarship Fund, which provides support to Environment and Resources graduate students working at the intersection of policy, politics and the environment in North America. In addition, they established the Aldo Leopold Great People in Environmental Studies Scholarship, which provides need-based aid to Nelson undergraduate students, and have provided generous support to the Professorship in Water Resources Fund and the Earth Day Event Fund.

Jeff has emerged as a strategic leader and tireless advocate for the institute’s Energy Analysis and Policy program. Not only has he been working closely with Nelson professors Tracey Holloway and Greg Nemet on a budding campaign for a Nelson Institute Professorship in Energy Fund, but he has provided salary support for an undergraduate student to assist the team and the campaign, which will fully unfold during the 2015-16 academic year.

Jeff is a Nelson alumnus (PhD Environment and Resources ‘09) and a member of the institute’s Board of Visitors. His professional pursuits include making and managing long- and short-term investments in equity and commodity markets.

John and Linda Nelson

The Nelsons’ enormously generous philanthropy has been behind many of the Nelson Institute’s major initiatives over the years, including especially the biennial Tales from Planet Earth film festival. The Nelsons have also established the Forward Fund for the Center for Culture, History and Environment and a Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship.

John is an emeritus member and past chair of the Nelson Institute Board of Visitors. In addition, he is a UW alumnus (MS mechanical engineering ‘76) and currently serves as the managing director of Global Infrastructure Asset Management LLC; is a member of the UW Foundation board of directors; and is an adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering at UW-Madison. Linda, too, is a UW alumna (business ‘82) and is actively involved with the School of Veterinary Medicine.

“The support we’ve received from these friends of the institute has been nothing short of transformative,” says Nelson Institute Director Paul Robbins. “Their generosity, leadership and advice has changed the direction of the institute and helped secure its future as we confront the fiscal challenges posed by state budget cuts. I can’t even begin to fully express our gratitude.”

New Matching Scholarship Program Announced

Similar to John and Tashia Morgridge’s recent, historic $100 million gift for the establishment of new professorships and chairs at UW-Madison, Albert “Ab” and Nancy Nicholas (classes of ‘52 and ‘55, respectively) have provided a $50 million gift to be used to create new student scholarships.

Scholarship funds will be matched dollar-for-dollar, with half of the match going to the campus unit where the new scholarship is established and the other half going in to the chancellor’s central scholarship fund.

For more information about this program and how you can help support the Nelson Institute, please contact Ann Swenson, the institute’s director of advancement and donor relations, at

Nelson Institute Student Experience Fund

We extend thanks to the spring 2015 donors to the Nelson Institute Student Experience Fund, a biannual campaign designed to plant the seed of philanthropic thought among our current students. We encourage them to invest $1 to support fun, community-building activities for future students. Participation is the campaign’s singular goal.

  • Lauren Abrahams
  • Daniel Aragon
  • Rob Beattie
  • Peter Boger
  • Tierney Bougie
  • Tiff Bougie
  • George Bruch
  • Jake Bujnowski
  • Wiset Bumrungwong
  • Aimee Crittendon
  • Bradley DalSanto
  • Amanda DePagter
  • Mary Dinsmore
  • Stephanie Dresen
  • Vanessa Durant
  • Eve Emshwiller
  • Laurel Fletcher
  • Susan Frett
  • Nicolas G.
  • Eveylyn Hammond
  • Paula Henriquez
  • Colin Higgins
  • Josh Horman
  • Tommy Jasmin
  • June Jeon
  • Ashya Kaderabek-Vela
  • Shi-Teng Kang
  • Anna Kathleen
  • Keefe Keeley
  • Aislinn Koehler
  • Krysta Koralesky
  • Tyler Lark
  • Ramona Lowery
  • Billy Maes
  • Lily Mank
  • Cayla Matte
  • Jose Medina
  • Trager Metge
  • Jim Miller
  • McKensey Miller
  • Patricia Moran
  • Abby Pansch
  • Anne and Tim Pearce
  • Trina Pearson
  • Diana Peterson
  • Max Pielet
  • Margaret Radl
  • Marc Rosen
  • Philip Rothrock
  • Ben Ruffolo
  • Katy Thostenson
  • Vaishnavi Tripuraneni
  • Katie VanDyne
  • Tanner Verstegen
  • Carly Vinkavich
  • Sara Waters
  • Sarah Weber
  • Cait Williamson
  • Elise Wirkus
  • Chris Wirz
  • Yang Yang
  • Austin Yantes
  • Nick Zauch
  • Hangjian Zhao
  • Anonymous (26)