Fund For Wisconsin Scholars [FFWS] provides need-based grants to graduates of Wisconsin public high schools attending University of Wisconsin four year colleges and universities to support their access to and completion of college. By providing need-based grants, FFWS helps reduce the financial barriers of attending college and lighten the debt that many Wisconsin students incur.
What is FFWS?
FFWS is a private, not for profit charitable foundation established in 2007 by a gift of $175 million from John and Tashia Morgridge. The Foundation is built on the belief that every person has equal value and the potential to create one’s own future and the future of our society; and that the attainment of higher education leads to improved physical and emotional health, increased moral and ethical thinking, and increased civic involvement. FFWS also believes that increasing the number of Wisconsin adults who hold a bachelor degree will improve the quality of life for all Wisconsin residents by creating more well-paying jobs, increasing learning opportunities, and providing greater education options for future students. By helping to assure a highly educated workforce, FFWS helps create the economic viability necessary for meeting the challenges that face us today and tomorrow. Funding is distributed through financial aid offices in the University of Wisconsin system. When higher education is more affordable, it helps decrease the financial stress of college expenses and makes graduating from college more attainable.
Why We Do This
From John and Tashia Morgridge
Our mission is to help more students in Wisconsin graduate from college. Over 20 years ago we tore out a newspaper article about a scholarship program for low-income students. The article sat in a pile on Tashia’s desk, yellowing with age, until we realized in 2007 that we might be able to create a similar program in Wisconsin.
After consulting with various individuals and organizations we decided to select recipients from a pool of Pell Grant eligible students. The students are randomly selected annually from roughly five thousand eligible Wisconsin high school graduates. Once selected, the students receive a scholarship for up to five years, provided they continue as full time students and make adequate academic progress.
Our hope is to increase the number of students who complete a bachelor’s degree and without overwhelming debt. With reduced debt, students might be able to work fewer hours per week, have more time to study and will be able to participate in campus clubs and activities. Some students might also find it possible to take a semester abroad.
In the 1950’s when we were both at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it was possible to work during the summer and have a part-time job during the academic year and cover all your expenses. John had a variety of summer jobs including working on the cleanup crew in a pea cannery, tunnel mucking in a storm sewer under the Milwaukee River, moving rock in a quarry, and highway construction. Really hard work, but he graduated debt free.
We visit several campuses every year to meet with the scholars and are touched by their stories and appreciate their hugs. Many students come from families unfamiliar with the demands of college or may come from school districts that did not totally prepare them for the rigors of college classes. Although college may be more challenging for these students, determination and help from other students and support staff allows them to succeed.
A new mentor program has recently been started on each campus using junior and senior FFWS students as mentors. It will help FFWS freshmen and transfer students feel welcome on campus and will assist them in learning “how to do college”. We hope cohorts of students with similar experiences will form on each campus.
We know we can’t meet the needs of every student, but the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars lets students know that someone cares about them and that there is an opportunity and support for them as they pursue a college degree. Our wish for the students is that a college education will enhance their lives and give them greater life long options and opportunities.
John P. Morgridge
John P. Morgridge and his wife, Tashia F. Morgridge, established the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars (FFWS) in December 2007 with a contribution of 6 million shares of Cisco stock to help make higher education accessible to talented public school graduates in the state. John is chair of the FFWS Board of Directors.
John has had a lengthy career as a business executive, educator and philanthropist.
He is currently chair emeritus of Cisco Systems, a multinational corporation that designs and sells networking and communications technology and services. John joined Cisco in 1988 as President and CEO. In 1990, he took Cisco public; in 1995, he was appointed chair; and in November 2006, he became chair emeritus. During his tenure, Cisco became the world leader in networking for the Internet.
Throughout their lives, John and Tashia has made access to education one of their top priorities. They established the Morgridge Center for Public Service on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, gave to the UW-Madison School of Education to modernize and expand the education building, and gave to help build the Discovery Institute and launch the Morgridge Institute for Research. They provided matching funds to help establish some 134 new faculty chairs to retain and attract top faculty.
John is past chair of The Nature Conservancy and serves on the boards of the Cisco Foundation, the Morgridge Institute for Research, the TOSA Foundation, and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and the UW-Madison Chancellor’s Advisory Board.. John also taught at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and serves on its School of Business Advisory Council. He served as co-director of the Stanford Leadership Academy, a seminar program for the university’s senior faculty and staff. John also helped launch and teaches at the annual Wisconsin Entrepreneurial Bootcamp at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Business School.
John and Tashia are both graduates of Wauwatosa High School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford University.
Tashia F. Morgridge
- Tashia F. Morgridge is co-founder of the FFWS and serves on its Board of Directors. Tashia is an educator and author. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her master’s degree from Lesley University in Massachusetts, Tashia has been a teacher and supporter of public education. She is author of the book Award-Winning Activities for All Curriculum Areas.
Tashia’s volunteerism, philanthropy and board service have focused on children and young adults. She is former chair of the Board of Directors of the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University, an ex-officio member of the Board of the Morgridge Center for Public Service in Wisconsin, a member of the Board of Visitors for the UW-Madison School of Education and a member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor’s Advisory Board. She is the current president of the TOSA Foundation.
Tashia and John have been married for over 63 years. They had three children and have six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Committed to family and recreation, the couple ran a summer camp each summer for their grandchildren. Tashia is the author of Cousins’ Camp, a story based on the summer camp. John and Tashia also have bicycled across the U.S., climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and cross-country skied above the Arctic Circle.
John W. Daniels, Jr.
John W. Daniels Jr. is not only a national real estate and business expert with an enviable client list of national corporate household names, he is chairman emeritus of Quarles & Brady, a strategic business advisor to many of the firm’s largest clients, a recurrently honored champion of diversity and inclusion, a much sought-after thought leader on multiple topics, a widely recognized pillar of the community, an active agent of organizational and civic change, and a crusader for high-quality education and access to it. He grew the firm impressively during the worst economy since the Great Depression, expanding its ranks of attorneys and adding new locations and national practice specialties in spite of the downturn, fundamentally transforming Quarles from its traditional legal industry structure to a model of a 21st-century professional services business.
Formerly the national president of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, John has established a remarkable career in the practice of real estate law, representing national, regional, local, and governmental owners and investors, and playing a significant role in some of the most complex real estate redevelopment projects in the United States. For his legal accomplishments, he has been called one of “the 50 most influential diverse attorneys in America” by the National Bar Association and one of “100 Managing Partners You Need to Know” by Lawdragon, among myriad other acknowledgements of his leadership and influence. He has been honored not only for his legal leadership but for his entrepreneurialism, his spirit of excellence in the pursuit of racial justice, and his devotion to education.
John’s personal motto, which has become a core firm value, is, “Everybody counts, every day,” and that philosophy invigorates everything with which he is involved. He is driven by a powerful sense of fairness, and he believes there are few problems that cannot be solved through objective, reasoned persistence, pursued in good faith. He’s an imaginative problem solver, a uniquely critical thinker, a voice of wisdom and long experience, a connector of power players, and a fully tested leader. Depend on him to make big things happen.
Mary W. Gulbrandsen
Mary W. Gulbrandsen is executive director of the FFWS. A pediatric nurse practitioner and former school district administrator, Mary has dedicated her career to supporting children by combining her interest and expertise in medicine and education. She is recognized for her commitment to ensuring health care and quality education for all children, and her ability to find funding for those services. She writes and speaks about this work.
A passionate supporter of public education, Mary joined the Madison Metropolitan School District over 30 years ago to implement and run the program that placed health-services staff in all Madison public schools. Mary went on to serve in a variety of leadership roles in the school district, including as chief of staff, where she worked on long-range planning, finance and operations and programs designed to improve student achievement. She retired in June 2007 as Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Student Services for the district.
Mary holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and two masters degrees, in pediatric nursing and in administrative medicine, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Mary also devotes substantial time to volunteerism and board service. She is currently a member of the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation board, the Opera for the Young Board, and several University of Wisconsin committees and boards. She is married to Carl Gulbrandsen, and together they have three children and four grandchildren.
“It is truly a joy to meet the FFWS recipients, hear their stories, observe their joy for learning, and to know that the future of our State and Country are in their wonderful, capable hands.”
Ted D. Kellner
Ted D. Kellner serves on the Board of Directors of the FFWS. Ted is a Chartered Financial Analyst with over 40 years of investment experience, and currently serves as chair and chief executive officer of Fiduciary Management, Inc. of Milwaukee, an investment firm that he founded in 1980. The firm currently manages more than $4 billion in assets. Ted also founded Fiduciary Real Estate Development, Inc., located in Milwaukee, which owns over 5,000 multi-family units in Wisconsin. He currently serves as treasurer of Fiduciary.
Ted serves on the boards of American Family Mutual Insurance Company, Lakeview Equity Partners, Marshall & Ilsley, Mason Wells, Inc. and the Milwaukee School of Engineering. As an active supporter of non-profit organizations, he also serves on the boards of the Children’s Hospital System, Bluecoats Foundation, YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, United Way of Greater Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Humane Society and Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. (Summerfest), of which he is treasurer and past president. Within the UW System, Ted has served as chair of the board of the University of Wisconsin Foundation (where is he currently a board member), president of the Wisconsin Alumni Association and president of the Wisconsin School of Business Board of Visitors (where he is currently a board member).
Ted and his wife, Mary, both hold degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and have been generous contributors to the school. Most recently, they joined a small group of investors that donated $85 million to help the UW School of Business attract and retain top faculty. The couple has three children, Jack, Laura and Kristin.
Becky Splitt served as the first CEO of StudyBlue, a mobile, social study platform that helps students help each other learn. Over 13m of them to date have done so, and in the process amassed the world’s largest library of student generated study material. Becky moved into the role of Executive Chairman in August 2014.
Prior to her work with StudyBlue, Becky served as the Director of MSN International at Microsoft where she was responsible for setting strategy, managing the P&L and expanding the business from six to 27 countries.
Becky’s tech career started as a founding team member of Brite Voice Systems. The voice processing technology company went public seven years after incorporating. During that time Becky moved from the single product manager to Vice President of the companies managed services division.
Becky has steered some of the industry’s giants into successful new business segments, and at the same time turned small players into industry leaders. Becky can speak to building and managing a global workforce at MSN, running a lean team accountable to both angel and institutional investors, while harnessing breakthrough growth at StudyBlue.
David Ward is a member of the Board of Directors of the FFWS. A leading spokesperson for American higher education, David is past president of the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C. and is currently the interim chancellor at the UW-Madison.
David received his doctorate in 1963 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he would later serve as chancellor. Prior to becoming chancellor, David also served as associate dean of the graduate school from 1980 to 1987 and as vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost from 1989 to 1993. During his four years as provost of UW-Madison, he led the development of a strategic plan that improved the quality of undergraduate education, added to campus research facilities and enhanced the connections among the university, the city, the business community and the state.
David’s commitment to higher education has taken many forms. He is currently chair of the Board of Trustees of the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development, a nonprofit group that spearheaded the development of Internet 2.
During his career as a geography professor, David taught at UW-Madison and held visiting appointments at University College London, The Australian National University, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and at his undergraduate alma mater, the University of Leeds.