Share |

Investing in Nelson

Earth Day 2020 legacy campaign, transformative gifts

Winter 2016

We would like to say thank you to all our supporters – your contributions to the Nelson Institute over the past year have been numerous, varied and generous. We are quite simply humbled and grateful for your choice to invest in the Nelson Institute. Your combined gifts of time, talent and expertise, coupled with introductions to your personal and professional networks, providing internships, mentoring and employment opportunities for our students, as well as over 250 individual financial gifts (supporting areas all across the institute and totaling more than $511,000) are extraordinary, valuable and very much appreciated.

Honoring the past and securing the future: Earth Day 2020 Legacy Campaign

Education is a privilege for many, but sharing knowledge is a responsibility for all – one that the Nelson Institute takes very seriously. How we do this determines our legacy.

Gaylord Nelson
Gaylord Nelson

Ten years ago, in the spirit of the very first Earth Day – an environmental teach-in founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson – the institute held the first of what has become an annual conference that brings the very best and most current environmental science from UW-Madison to the public. This is our signature event and one of the largest and most significant Earth Day events in the country.

We welcome people of all ages, from young schoolchildren to seniors, and we keep registration fees low to enable people from all income levels to participate. We are enormously proud of the outreach and education we have been able to provide to over 10,000 people though this conference.

Earth Day 2020 legacy campaign

In addition to hearing from internationally renowned speakers such as primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, novelist Margaret Atwood, and the former Prime Minister of Bhutan, Lyonpo Yeshi Zimba, conference attendees are also able to learn from, engage with and be inspired by UW faculty and students, and guests from business, nonprofits and government agencies.

Through this annual conference, a bridge has been built between the university and the community, and Gaylord Nelson’s vision endures. It is an example of the Wisconsin Idea in action and at its best.

With an eye toward 2020 – the 50th anniversary of Earth Day – we would like to secure the future of this extraordinary event for five more years. We are seeking a total of $250,000 in philanthropy to achieve this goal.

We hope that you will consider making a gift in support of this signature event and in honor of Gaylord Nelson – who is not only one of Wisconsin’s native sons, but also directly responsible for catalyzing the environmental movement and protecting the natural resources we all enjoy and rely upon each day. He made a difference and so can you.

Gifts in any amount are appreciated and may be made at


Mrs. Patricia Cornwell with Gaylord Nelson portrait



Mrs. Pat Cornwell, Gaylord Nelson’s longtime executive assistant, friend and champion of his legacy, stands beside a portrait of the senator that she and her husband, Professor Dan Cornwell, had restored and donated to the Wisconsin State Historical Society (WHS).

The WHS grants the Nelson Institute a special one-day loan of this portrait each year, allowing it to be displayed at our Earth Day conference.




Earth Day 2020 Centennial Circle founders

Sal and Judy Troia with Neil deGrasse Tyson
Photo credit Ingrid Laas.


Sal and Judy Troia (pictured with 2015 conference keynote speaker Neil deGrasse Tyson, center) are dedicated, engaged, long-time supporters of the Nelson Institute. In the summer of 2015, the Troias pledged $25,000 in support of the Nelson Institute Professorship in Water Resources Fund. Demonstrating their commitment even further – and citing the institute’s strong outreach efforts as their inspiration – Sal and Judy have pledged an additional $75,000 in support of the Earth Day 2020 Legacy Campaign.

Nelson family with Jane Goodall


Mrs. Carrie Lee Nelson and the Nelson family (pictured with 2013 conference keynote speaker Jane Goodall, second from left) have also generously pledged $50,000 in honor of Gaylord’s centennial and the Earth Day 2020 Legacy Campaign. We are enormously grateful for these leadership gifts from the Troias and the Nelsons, and are pleased to honor them as founding members of the Earth Day 2020 Centennial Circle.


Transformative gifts made to Energy Analysis and Policy program

An anonymous donor has recently established the Energy Analysis and Policy Student Fund with a gift of $100,000. This endowment fund provides resources to support Energy Analysis and Policy graduate student development, including enriching the EAP student experience both inside and outside the classroom. Wes Foell, a founding EAP program member and long-time advocate for this graduate certificate, has added $25,000 to the fund. Both donors believe this growing student fund can be an important vehicle to further support energy teaching and research on the UW-Madison campus.

“We hope this support
will help reinvigorate
the Wisconsin Idea in
the field of energy
analysis and policy.”

In addition, Wes and his wife, Ankie Foell, are providing two years of financial support for EAP graduate research assistants. In 2015-16 this support is funding an EAP research project conducted by Professor Tracey Holloway and EAP student David Abel.

“Climate change, international security, economic prosperity and public health all have deep dimensions tied to our patterns of energy use. I am truly pleased that the Nelson Institute is heavily involved with these issues, as it was in the early days of its existence in the 1970s and 80s, when EAP and other UW faculty played a major role in state, regional and national energy programs and policies,” Wes recently stated. “We hope this support will help reinvigorate the Wisconsin Idea in the field of energy analysis and policy.”

Contributions to the new EAP Student Fund are gratefully accepted at

Contributions are also welcomed and encouraged to the EAP Program Fund, which provides general discretionary support for EAP, including faculty and student activities, networking and conference travel. Contributions can be made at

For more information about EAP and its activities, please contact Professor Holloway.



Lynn Broaddus and Bruce Kahn, both members of the Nelson Institute Board of Visitors, graciously hosted outreach and engagement events on behalf of the Nelson Institute in 2015. These follow on the tradition initiated by Nelson Board of Visitors Past Chair Sonnet Edmonds. Sonnet and her husband, Chris Edmonds, have hosted two Cocktails and Conversation events at their Atlanta, Georgia, home in 2011 and 2014.

Lynn and her husband, Marc Gorelick, held an evening event at their home in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, in April. Nelson Institute Director Paul Robbins shared with attendees stories and photographs from his current research in India and spoke of the state of the Nelson Institute and the university.

Bruce’s morning Breakfast and Conversation event was held in New York City in September. Robbins was joined by Nelson Professor and UW Global Health Institute Director Jonathan Patz; Diederik Timmer, global director of institutional relations at Sustainalytics; and Eron Bloomgaden, partner at Encourage Capital, for a panel discussion before an audience of Wall Street representatives on how scientific research impacts investment decisions. Bruce served as moderator.

If you are interested in hosting one of these events, please contact Ann Swenson.


Rare book gifted to Center for Culture, History, and Environment

page from The Natural History and Antiquities of Selbourne


James and Renee Knight, major benefactors to the Nelson Institute Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE), and appreciators of all things historic, recently purchased and donated to CHE a first edition copy of The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, written by Vicar Gilbert White in 1789. During the presentation ceremony in November, CHE Director William Cronon referred to the tome as “one of the seminal works in the field of ecology and natural history that are foundational to CHE’s work.”

Interested parties may examine the book, which is housed in the Department of Special Collections at Memorial Library, 728 State Street. Questions and appointment inquiries should be directed to the department’s curator, Robin Rider.


blog comments powered by Disqus


Facebook logo   Twitter logo   Make a donation