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UW-Eau Claire Foundation receives national leadership award

| Gary Johnson

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Foundation board of directors has received a national award for its leadership and initiative in partnering to develop multiple major real estate projects that transformed campus and helped revitalize the community.

The Foundation is among four higher education governing boards nationwide selected to receive the 2024 John W. Nason Award for Board Leadership from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. Other recipients include the Babson College board of trustees in Massachusetts, Oakton College Educational Foundation board of directors in Illinois and Saint Peter’s University board of trustees in New Jersey.

2024 John W. Nason Award badge

“We have been very fortunate to have a Foundation staff and board who are visionary and willing to think outside the box to benefit UW-Eau Claire,” Chancellor James Schmidt says. “Over the past 15 years, the UW-Eau Claire Foundation and Blugold Real Estate Foundation have worked tirelessly to develop creative solutions to our facility needs. Were it not for the work of the board members and staff, we would not have the distinction of being ‘Wisconsin’s most beautiful campus.’ That their efforts also have helped the community shows our deep commitment to collaboration and the notion that by working together we all thrive. I am grateful to the staff and board members for their singular commitment to our students and university.”

This year’s honorees for the Nason Award, established in 1992, were chosen from nominations from four-year public and private colleges and universities, two-year institutions and institutionally related foundations.

In announcing the award, AGB noted that Foundation leaders recognized the need for real estate expertise on its board to be successful and sought out members to “bolster the board’s collective wisdom.” The board established the Blugold Real Estate Foundation and directly supported university and community projects such as Pablo Center at the Confluence, Aspenson Mogensen Hall and the new County Materials Complex set to open later this year.

The national recognition reflects the hard work and dedication of the Foundation’s leadership, says Eric Wan, Foundation board chair who has been a board member for 12 years.

“The Foundation has shown great vision to see the power of collaboration with the city, state and strategic partners to build and make a difference to the university and community,” Wan says. “Although collaborating often requires more time and resources, the commitment from leadership and partners result in positive impact achieved.”

The Foundation’s nomination submission indicated its efforts impacted $700 million in capital improvements with more than $80 million funded by gifts. The Foundation also collaborated on projects with Mayo Clinic Health System, UW-Eau Claire alumnus Justin Vernon of the Grammy Award-winning group Bon Iver, the Sonnentag Foundation, Eau Claire County, the state of Wisconsin, the Pablo Foundation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Foundation, Visit Eau Claire and the city of Eau Claire.

Julia Diggins, interim Foundation president, says past and present Foundation boards have been “focused and impactful” as they strategically worked to make opportunities become realities for the university and greater Eau Claire area.

“The work that the Foundation has done with campus and in the community is incredibly important in the lives of the students, faculty and community members in Eau Claire,” Diggins says. “When you start thinking about the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been invested on campus and in Eau Claire due to the work of the Foundation, it begins to put into perspective the level of impact of this work. Never underestimate the power of passionate Blugolds.”

The UW-Eau Claire Foundation and other award recipients will be honored at AGB’s Foundation Leadership Forum Jan. 28-30 and the National Conference on Trusteeship March 26-28.