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Donor Stories for the New Museum | Wisconsin Historical Society

Donor Stories for the New Museum

Donor Stories

Learn about the individuals & others supporting the project.

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Joann & Michael Youngman standing outside in a formal portrait.

JoAnn & Michael Youngman

Pat & Al Wilkening standing close together, hugging sideways, outside smiling at the camera.

Pat & Al Wilkening

Sherry & John Stilin standing behind a black fence in front of a historic building. The streets are cobbled, the building is white stucko and wood beams. John has his arm around Sherry lovingly, she leans into him and they both smile happily at the camera. She's wearing a tan shirt wiht a denim jacket, her hair is white and cut short around her ears with swooping bangs, and red glasses. He is graying with a white goatee and a pale grey button up outdoors shirt and dark grey pants

John & Sherry Stilin

Kim Sponem in a formal portrait at Summit Credit Union. Blonde Hair curled about shoulders, and an emerald green suit.

Summit Credit Union

Jeff Keebler in a formal portrait, looking like he's in a bit of pain in his grey suit.

Madison Gas & Electric

Megan Jerabek smiles largely in this formal portrait. She wears her hair past her shoulders and wavy, as well as a blue blouse.

von Briesen & Roper, s.c.

The Wisconsin Historical Society is grateful to visionary individuals and business partners whose early leadership financial gifts helped the Society — through the Wisconsin Historical Foundation, its nonprofit fundraising arm — reach an initial private fundraising goal of $30 million necessary to move the $120 million new museum project forward. Thanks to their foresight and generosity, the museum is no longer a long-term dream discussed for two decades, but an attraction now in the planning stages.

As the Society looks forward to the day the new museum opens, we are pleased to highlight these supporters and share their stories and why they chose to endorse the project in such a significant and meaningful way.

Joann & Michael Youngman standing outside in a formal portrait.

"We are pleased to make a donation in support of this project and feel it is important to give back. For us, this is a meaningful way to do that because we appreciate the value of history and trust the Society will build an amazing museum that will make us proud. This is an investment in the future of our state."

— Michael Youngman, Milwaukee

Youngmans’ generous museum gift ‘an investment in the future of our state’

JoAnn and Michael Youngman believe the Wisconsin Historical Society’s new state history museum will transform how history is understood and shared across Wisconsin for decades. To show their enthusiasm and help make it a reality, the couple from Milwaukee made a generous financial pledge towards the project.

“It will be a great day for Wisconsin when the museum doors open to the public,” JoAnn said. “We believe it will have an enormous impact on the people of our state not only today but for future generations.”

“We are pleased to make a donation in support of this project and feel it is important to give back,” added Michael. “For us, this is a meaningful way to do that because we appreciate the value of history and trust the Society will build an amazing museum that will make us proud. This is an investment in the future of our state.”

The Society is grateful to visionaries like the Youngmans and others whose early leadership gifts helped it reach an initial private fundraising goal of $30 million necessary to move the $120 million project forward. Thanks to their foresight and generosity, the museum is no longer a long-term dream, but an attraction in the planning stages. As we look forward to the day it opens, the Society is pleased to share stories of these visionaries and why they chose to support the project in such a significant way.

The Youngmans have been longtime, active supporters of the Society, with Michael serving three terms on the board of directors for the Wisconsin Historical Foundation, the Society’s non-profit fundraising arm. As chairman of the board, Michael had a front-row seat to planning for the project, which has been proposed in one form or another for more than two decades.

When the Foundation launched the Campaign for a New Wisconsin History Museum in 2017, the Youngmans stepped forward with their early leadership pledge and became strong advocates for the project.

“We are excited about this modern museum and see it as a critical addition for our state,” said JoAnn, who serves as Director and Vice President of the Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation. “We believe Wisconsin’s citizens deserve to have their history showcased in a way that is fitting for our great state.”

The fact that the fundraising campaign is chaired by former Wisconsin governors Jim Doyle, a Democrat, and Tommy Thompson, a Republican, was especially meaningful to them.

“Having the support and leadership of governors from both parties speaks to how this is a bipartisan project that all of Wisconsin can get behind,” said Michael, who spent his career in government relations, first in leadership roles for state lawmakers and later as an executive at Northwestern Mutual Insurance. “No matter our party affiliation, we are all part of Wisconsin’s history and proud of our state.

“Ours is a shared history, entrusted to us by our ancestors, and it is something we can all embrace. We all love Wisconsin and want to share our stories with the world. However, it has been clear for a long time that we need a new museum in order to do it properly.”

Throughout their involvement with the Society, the Youngmans have had numerous opportunities to catch glimpses of the world-renowned collections the Society has gathered over its 175-year history. The items, some of which date to the 1500s, are unable to be publicly displayed in the current Wisconsin Historical Museum on the Capitol Square, a converted hardware store which is too small and ill-equipped for the task. Instead, they are stored at the State Archive Preservation Facility in Madison, where they can be protected in a climate-controlled environment but aren’t available for public viewing.

“The Society’s collections are on par with the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian,” JoAnn said. “When you see them, you really appreciate the foresight that went into collecting them so long ago and you understand why the Society is one of the most respected history organizations in the world.”

“We feel that the public deserves to see these objects and the children of our state will be inspired by the stories that will be told through them,” Michael added. “It’s way past time for Wisconsin to have the kind of modern museum that can display these items. It is a shame that they are hidden away in storage.”

The new distance learning technology will connect the museum in real time with people in all 72 counties of Wisconsin, including students in classrooms. That means those who are unable to travel will still benefit from it.

“It will be a museum for all people, regardless of whether they are able to travel to Madison,” JoAnn said. “The possibility of having students participate in discussions about history with peers in classrooms hundreds of miles away in other parts of Wisconsin is so exciting. Imagine how much they will be able to learn from each other just by sharing their perspectives. The same is true for adults.”

“It’s like nothing that currently exists,” added Michael. “The thought of bringing the people and students of our state together through the lens of history is really appealing. It could unite our state like never before and help us build a better future.”

The Youngmans also look forward to seeing the exhibit designs that will be possible in a larger, modern museum, such as creatively showcasing how essential water is to Wisconsin’s history and the state’s connection to the Great Lakes. In addition, “the museum will amplify the relevance of the Society in our everyday lives,” Michael said.

Family history is important to the Youngmans. Scores of people access the Society’s vast genealogy records every day, either directly or via popular websites, and thousands more make connections to history at the Society’s historic sites across the state. Many more benefit from the Society’s historic preservation office, publishing division and outreach services, or from the hundreds of local history affiliate organizations.

While searching through the wealth of information found at the Society, the Youngmans discovered a phrase that has come to mean so much to them: “Looking Backward to Look Forward.” The Youngmans believe lessons learned from the past are important and “now is the time to look forward to this amazing, long-overdue opportunity that we are proud to support,” JoAnn said.

“Over the years, we have seen first-hand the great work of the Society and we know how respected it is across the country,” added Michael. “It has the historical resources and expertise to create a museum experience that will honestly and accurately tell the stories of all Wisconsinites. We are incredibly fortunate to have the nation’s best state historical society right here in Wisconsin. We feel it’s time we had a history museum equal in stature.”

- Dean Witter

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Pat and Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Al Wilkeni standing close together, hugging sideways, outside smiling at the camera.

“The museum project was very important to Al and still is to me. Wisconsin is rich in history and it is important that we support the Wisconsin Historical Society in its effort to educate our present-day society, as well as future generations. This museum will be an incredible learning and teaching facility. … (It) will engage and inspire people of all ages. Understanding and learning from the past will help us to better prepare for the future."

— Pat Wilkening

Wilkenings’ gift a tribute to the late military leader’s decisive service on the museum project

When the Wisconsin Historical Society’s new state history museum opens its doors, there will be many people to thank for having made it possible.

The late Maj. Gen. Al Wilkening will be near the top of the list.

Getting the museum built was an important mission in retirement for the decorated Air Force fighter pilot, who served his country for over 39 years, including five as adjutant general, or chief administrative officer, of the Wisconsin National Guard at the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wilkening’s decisive leadership on a three-person, volunteer executive committee during the 2017 launch of the Society’s $50 million Campaign for a New Wisconsin History Museum was critical in creating a feasibility study that confirmed broad desire for a new museum and the ability to make it happen. That study and the committee’s other early work was essential in setting the course for the fundraising drive that today has led to more than $30 million in private gifts to the project.

Sadly, Wilkening won’t be on hand to celebrate the opening of the museum that has been discussed for two decades. On April 8, 2020, Wilkening, 74, passed away at his home in Brooklyn, near Madison, after waging a lengthy and fierce battle with pancreatic cancer.

“We’re all dedicated to completing this museum project mission, not only for the people of Wisconsin but also for Al because it was so important to him,” said Julie Lussier, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Historical Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the Society. “We’re better people for having known Al and we miss him terribly. His passion and enthusiasm for the project inspired many to support it and his leadership put our campaign on solid footing and is a big reason why it has been so successful. When the museum opens, it will be an extension of Al’s impressive legacy of service to our state and country."

Chris Berry, who volunteered alongside Wilkening during a previous museum planning effort, recruited his friend to join him and Cathi Wiebrecht-Searer on the executive committee of the new Campaign for a New Wisconsin History Museum. Together, they offered leadership and guidance to Society and Foundation staff, drafting campaign plans and policies and working closely with the campaign’s co-chairs, former Wisconsin governors Tommy Thompson and Jim Doyle, to get the critical fundraising effort off on the right foot.

“Al was committed to the vision of developing a state-of-the-art museum to preserve and share Wisconsin history,” Berry said. “His close relationships with Governors Thompson and Doyle as well as his many personal contacts throughout the state provided the Society’s efforts with instant credibility and ensured strong public and private support for the ambitious project."

“Al was a great man and a true gentleman who spent decades serving his community and his country,” added Christian Øverland, the Society’s Ruth and Hartley Barker Director & CEO. “I experienced Al’s welcoming presence when I joined the Society at the beginning of the museum campaign. His work with the Society and the Foundation was an extension of his commitment to the public good. Al believed in the importance of sharing our state’s history and felt strongly a new Wisconsin history museum would enrich and benefit Wisconsinites in all 72 counties and throughout our nation. We are forever grateful for Al’s leadership and service.

In addition to his many hours of tireless volunteer service to the museum campaign, including trips to all parts of Wisconsin to inform potential donors about details of the project, Al and his widow, Pat, made a generous financial commitment of their own.

“The museum project was very important to Al and still is to me,” said Pat. “Wisconsin is rich in history and it is important that we support the Wisconsin Historical Society in its effort to educate our present-day society, as well as future generations. I am looking forward to a new state-of-the-art museum, one that teaches to all learners, using modern technology and providing audio, visuals, hands-on experiences, and valuable programming; a museum that brings history to life."

The Society is grateful to visionaries like the Wilkenings and others whose early leadership gifts helped it reach an initial private fundraising goal of $30 million necessary to move the $120 million project forward. Thanks to their foresight and generosity, the museum is no longer a long-term dream, but an attraction in the planning stages.

In addition to their museum gift, the Wilkenings have also been longtime, active supporters of Society programs as members of the Heritage Circle, which recognizes donors who give at least $1,200 annually to the organization. Pat and her husband were looking forward to seeing how the museum would have an impact on visitors.

“This museum will be an incredible learning and teaching facility — a place where individuals, families, educators and students can come to acquaint themselves with the past,” she said. “The museum will engage and inspire people of all ages."

Museum visitors will understand “the people and cultures that have made Wisconsin the great state that it is today,” Pat said. “We can learn about how people coped with the challenges of their times by learning about their way of life, their sacrifices and accomplishments, as well as the joys and sorrows that they experienced. Understanding and learning from the past will help us to better prepare for the future.”

It will be a fitting extension of her husband’s impressive legacy.

While Al grew up in Massapequa, Long Island, N.Y., he and Pat moved to Wisconsin, where Pat grew up, after he completed his active duty in the Air Force in 1973. Upon arrival in his adopted state, Al quickly joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard, which became a part-time job for 17 years while he worked in human resources for a bank and a utility company, now Alliant Energy.

Al served in a number of command and staff positions in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, including commander of the 176th Tactical Fighter Squadron and deputy adjutant general during the Gulf War. In 2002, he was appointed by Gov. Scott McCallum as the adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard, continuing in that role under Gov. Doyle and overseeing 10,000 Guard members during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars until his 2007 retirement. Doyle also appointed Al to be the state’s first Homeland Security Advisor.

“Gen. Wilkening was everything you could ask for in a leader,” Doyle told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a story following Al’s death. “He led the Wisconsin National Guard during its most difficult time since the Second World War."

Now, his legacy will also include the Wisconsin history museum, which will put our shared history on a public platform like never before and inform and inspire guests for the next century.

Berry called his work on the museum’s Campaign Executive Committee “one of my most satisfying and enjoyable volunteer experiences in large part due to Al’s steadiness, camaraderie and humor.” He noted how Wiebrecht-Searer and others who met Al quickly joined him “as members of the Al Wilkening Fan Club."

“Beyond his achievements in successful military and business careers,” Berry added, “Al left a wonderful legacy for current and future members of the staff and Board of Directors at the Wisconsin Historical Foundation and, more significantly, future generations of visitors to the new Wisconsin history museum.

“We are all so fortunate that he was always willing to serve his state and its citizens."

- Dean Witter

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Sherry & John Stilin standing behind a black fence in front of a historic building. The streets are cobbled, the building is white stucko and wood beams. John has his arm around Sherry lovingly, she leans into him and they both smile happily at the camera. She's wearing a tan shirt wiht a denim jacket, her hair is white and cut short around her ears with swooping bangs, and red glasses. He is graying with a white goatee and a pale grey button up outdoors shirt and dark grey pants.

“We hope our gift provides momentum and inspires others to invest in such a worthy project. This museum will provide Wisconsinites, no matter where they are living today, with a world-class facility to honor the state’s historic past and use that knowledge and experience to build a better future.”

— John & Sherry Stilin, Redmond, Wash.

‘Proud Badgers’ Stilins happy to support Society’s museum project for their native state

Milwaukee area natives John and Sherry Stilin may have lived and raised their family in Redmond, Washington for the past 30 years, but they’ll always consider Wisconsin their home away from home.

“We are still proud Badgers,” they both agree. In fact, childhood memories of visiting Wisconsin relatives led two of their three sons to attend and graduate from UW-Madison.

The Stilins, members of the Wisconsin Historical Society for more than 20 years, are among many private citizens, charitable foundations, and businesses that have made early financial donations to the Society’s Campaign for new Wisconsin History Museum. These early gifts helped the Society — through the Wisconsin Historical Foundation, its nonprofit fundraising arm — reach the initial private fundraising goal of $30 million necessary to move the $120 million new museum project forward. Thanks to their foresight and generosity, the museum is no longer a long-term dream discussed for two decades, but an attraction now in the planning stages.

A variety of reasons motivated the Stilins to make their gift. As with many donors, a deep belief in the importance of history was at the core.

“Studying history enriches our personal lives but is also critical to an informed society,” says Sherry. “It explains why things are the way they are. More importantly, it can inspire. It shows us that things can change; even the persistent efforts of a single person can have a huge impact.”

They also credit receiving the Society’s quarterly Wisconsin Magazine of History over the years as a factor in their decision to support the new museum.

“Living out of state, the magazine gave us a chance to talk to our sons about Wisconsin with greater knowledge and to arouse their curiosity about its history,” says Sherry.

“The magazine has a lot of interesting stories and through it we got an appreciation of Wisconsin’s place in the development of our country,” adds John. “For example, learning how John Muir influenced Aldo Leopold, who in turn influenced Gaylord Nelson’s prescient founding of Earth Day, or that Wisconsin has had a leading role in the Circus business, that Camp Randall was a Civil War Prison Camp, or how a labor strike in Bayview, where some of our relatives live, led to an eight-hour work day.”

More than anything, the Stilins say they were motivated by the possibilities a new museum would offer.

“I think the opportunity to visit both the State Capitol and a world-class history museum will create the same feeling on the state level as does a family trip to Washington, D.C., and the Smithsonian,” Sherry says. “I remember, as a child, seeing Civil War uniforms for the first time in an exhibit. Suddenly the war was very real. There is nothing like actually seeing artifacts in person. It will send a message to children: this is worth our time. It will also create a much stronger attraction for out-of-state visitors than the current museum.”

John is particularly excited about how new distance learning technology will connect the museum and its programming in real time with people in all 72 counties of Wisconsin, including students in classrooms. That means those who are unable to travel to Madison will still benefit from it. John, who is helping a group in the small northern Wisconsin city of Mellen preserve the historic Mellen State Bank, envisions the brownstone building becoming “a gathering place with digital connection to the museum.”

“I believe technology integrated into the new museum will allow small towns throughout the state to network and connect with each other to share the state’s collective history,” he says.

Making a financial gift to the project was meaningful to the Stilins, driven especially by their understanding of the funding challenges faced by historical societies.

“My father was a school teacher and both my parents loved history,” Sherry says, “so visiting museums and historic sites all over the country was just part of every summer vacation. It was pretty easy to take historical preservation for granted. However, I now know that local and state historical societies are typically underfunded in relation to the important role they play.”

Sherry’s comments are informed by her personal experience serving on the Redmond Historical Society Board and leading a major project to document the history of the poultry farms and breeding businesses that dotted the area long before Microsoft arrived on the scene.

“Preserving, interpreting and ultimately sharing local history takes more than motivated volunteers,” she says. “It generally takes expertise and money.”

John points to childhood experiences that inform his desire to make history more accessible to all.

“I come from a humble background,” he says. “I was raised in a large Wisconsin family of seven children. We didn’t have a lot growing up but we made the most of what Wisconsin had to offer in natural beauty and history. We never went to make-believe places like Disneyland; we couldn’t afford such extravagances. So we made adventures out of Wisconsin State Parks and historic sites. We were that family that stopped to read every Wisconsin historical marker along the highways. So I feel blessed and want to make sure that everyone, especially families that face tougher challenges than my family faced, have the same opportunities to explore and learn about Wisconsin.”

The Stilins believe a new museum will create those opportunities for decades to come, and they hope others follow their lead by financially supporting it, too.

“We hope our gift provides momentum and inspires others to invest in such a worthy project,” John says. “This museum will provide Wisconsinites, no matter where they are living today, with a world-class facility to honor the state’s historic past and use that knowledge and experience to build a better future.”

In addition to their longtime membership, the Stilins have made additional financial contributions to Society projects near and dear to them, including the 2010 renovation and restoration of the library reading room in the historic Society headquarters building, where Sherry often studied as a UW-Madison student; and the Korean War stories project, as Sherry’s father was a veteran.

“We would like to inspire others who grew up in Wisconsin to support the museum,” adds Sherry. “Decades down the road, it will give our great-great-grandchildren a feel for what it means to have Wisconsin heritage.”

- Dean Witter

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Kim Sponem in a formal portrait at Summit Credit Union. Blonde Hair curled about shoulders, and an emerald green suit.

"The Wisconsin Historical Society is one of the most respected history organizations in the country and Summit Credit Union is proud to partner with the Society and support this long overdue and important project. It is important to tell the Wisconsin story and the impact people, businesses, and government made on what Wisconsin is today and give a glimpse into the possibilities of the future."

— Kim Sponem, Summit Credit Union president and CEO

Summit Credit Union proud to support the Society’s history museum project

With an organizational legacy dating to 1935, Summit Credit Union understands and appreciates the value of history. With such deep roots of its own in Wisconsin, the financial lender founded in Madison was pleased to make a generous early gift to support the Wisconsin Historical Society’s campaign to build a new state history museum.

“The Wisconsin Historical Society is one of the most respected history organizations in the country and Summit Credit Union is proud to partner with the Society and support this long overdue and important project,” says Kim Sponem, who has more than 30 years of credit union leadership experience and has been Summit’s president/CEO for the past 19 years and its CEO since 2002. “It is important to tell the Wisconsin story and the impact people, businesses, and government made on what Wisconsin is today and give a glimpse into the possibilities of the future.”

The Society is grateful to visionary individuals, charitable foundations and organizations like Summit Credit Union whose early leadership gifts helped it reach an initial private fundraising goal of $30 million necessary to move the $120 million new museum project forward. Thanks to their foresight and generosity, the museum is no longer a dream that has been discussed for 20 years, but an attraction now in the planning stages. As it looks forward to the day the new museum opens, the Society is pleased to share stories of these visionaries and why they chose to support the project in such a significant way.

During its 86-year history, Summit Credit Union, which was originally founded as CUNA Credit Union, has grown to become the second-largest credit union in Wisconsin, with 47 locations in 26 cities, over 200,000 members and 600 employees, and assets worth more than $4.5 billion. Its headquarters is now located in the Madison suburb of Cottage Grove.

Sponem says the Wisconsin Historical Society, thanks to a 175-year history that predates Wisconsin statehood, is uniquely positioned to tell the stories of our state, including the significant role that financial institutions like Summit Credit Union have played in the growth and success of our communities and businesses.

She says a modern new museum is badly needed in order to display the world-renowned collections the Society has amassed in its history. The items, some of which date to the 1500s, are unable to be publicly displayed in the current Wisconsin Historical Museum on the Capitol Square, a converted hardware store which is too small and ill-equipped for the task. Instead, they’re stored at the State Archive Preservation Facility in Madison, where they can be protected in a climate-controlled environment. However, that facility is not open to the public. In a new museum, these amazing items will at last be available for the public to enjoy and learn from.

“The Society has warehouses full of items that hold pieces of the puzzle to our rich Wisconsin history,” Sponem says. “We need a place to display these items and tell our story so we can honor and learn from the past, explore today, and create our future intentionally.”

Sponem says her organization is excited about how new digital distance learning technology will connect the museum with students and people of all ages across all 72 counties of Wisconsin, as well as the economic impact an attraction like an exciting new museum will have on Madison.

“It will bring visitors to our capital city and provide the opportunity to explore what Madison has to offer,” she says. “From an economic perspective, this will boost our local businesses and employ more people, building individual and family financial stability.”

Sponem, a Madison native and lifelong Wisconsin resident, is looking forward to the exciting exhibits that will be possible in the new museum and how they will help to build a better future for Wisconsin.

“I’m curious and excited to see the various items that have been donated and stored away over the years and how those items bring together the patchwork of this great state,” she says. “I’m also looking forward to the museum’s use of technology to pull these items together in a way that is meaningful, engaging, and showcases who we are and who we are yet to become.”

- Dean Witter

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Jeff Keebler in a formal portrait, looking like he's in a bit of pain in his grey suit.

"The new museum will help all of us better understand our shared history and how it influences our present and can inform our future. We are proud to support this project and partner with an organization like the Wisconsin Historical Society, which has built a national reputation for excellence over its own 175-year history."

— Jeff Keebler, Chairman, President and CEO of Madison Gas and Electric

Madison Gas and Electric proud to support Society’s history museum project

Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) knows history. After all, its corporate roots date back to electricity’s arrival in Wisconsin’s capital city in the late 1800s. With a legacy so steeped in our shared history, it should come as no surprise that MGE, through its charitable foundation, was among the earliest financial supporters of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s new museum fundraising campaign.

“The MGE Foundation is very pleased to support the capital campaign for the new Wisconsin history museum,” said Jeff Keebler, MGE’s Chairman, President and CEO. “This will be a wonderful new asset for the residents of our state and will be an exciting addition to the downtown Madison area.”

The Society is grateful to visionary individuals, charitable foundations and organizations like Madison Gas and Electric whose early leadership gifts helped the Society reach an initial private fundraising goal of $30 million necessary to move the $120 million new museum project forward. Thanks to their foresight and generosity, the museum is no longer a long-term dream discussed for 20 years, but an attraction now in the planning stages. As the Society looks forward to the day the new museum opens, it is pleased to highlight these visionary early financial supporters and share their stories and why they chose to endorse the project in such a significant and meaningful way.

Madison Gas and Electric’s history dates to its predecessor company, the Madison Gas Light and Coke Co., which was founded in 1855. The Madison Electric Co. began delivering electric service in 1888, when Madison had a population of 13,000. Subsequent mergers led to the incorporation of Madison Gas and Electric Co. in 1896.

Today, MGE employs more than 700 people and provides electricity and natural gas to the greater Dane County area. The MGE Foundation, established in 1967, is the company’s philanthropic arm. “As your community energy company, we are committed to improving the quality of life for all who live and work here,” the MGE Foundation’s report on giving states. The foundation has given more than $6.5 million to over 400 community organizations, according to the report.

The Wisconsin Historical Society’s new museum project is a perfect fit for the MGE Foundation’s mission, Keebler says.

“The new museum promises to provide a comprehensive and accessible portal to our history for people of all ages, as well as showcasing the full breadth of the Society’s world-class collections,” he says. “The planned exhibits and educational programming will let families learn together across multiple generations and will allow all Wisconsinites to see themselves and their fingerprints on our collective heritage.”

Keebler adds that MGE and its foundation are also excited about how the much-needed modern museum will bring together residents in all 72 counties by connecting with them in real time through new digital distance learning technology, paving the way for a better future for Wisconsin.

“The new museum will help all of us better understand our shared history and how it influences our present and can inform our future,” Keebler says. “We are proud to support this project and partner with an organization like the Wisconsin Historical Society, which has built a national reputation for excellence over its own 175-year history. We’re confident the Society will deliver a spectacular new museum that will excite and inspire people of all ages across our state. MGE is very pleased to be a part of it.”

- Dean Witter

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Megan Jerabek smiles largely in this formal portrait. She wears her hair past her shoulders and wavy, as well as a blue blouse.

"Preserving history, our history, is what keeps us moving forward, and von Briesen is proud to partner with a nationally respected organization like the Wisconsin Historical Society and support this vitally important project. … Stepping back in time to see, feel, and experience history on a personal level will have a big impact. That is the ultimate gift to our future."

— Megan Jerabek, von Briesen & Roper, s.c., Shareholder

Wisconsin law firm von Briesen & Roper supports Society’s museum campaign with early gift

The law firm von Briesen & Roper, s.c., having served the people of Wisconsin since its founding in 1904, is proud of its deep roots in the state. With a legacy of such impressive length, appreciating the value of history is part of von Briesen & Roper’s organizational DNA, so the firm was pleased to make a generous early gift to support the Wisconsin Historical Society’s campaign to build a new state history museum.

“No one knows Wisconsin history better than Wisconsin itself, and no organization is better equipped to share the stories of our great state than the Wisconsin Historical Society,” said Megan Jerabek, a Madison-based attorney and Shareholder at von Briesen & Roper who also serves as co-chair of the board of directors for Downtown Madison, Inc. “Preserving history, our history, is what keeps us moving forward, and von Briesen is proud to partner with a nationally respected organization like the Wisconsin Historical Society and support this vitally important project.”

The Society is grateful to visionary individuals, charitable organizations and organizations like von Briesen & Roper whose early leadership gifts helped it reach an initial private fundraising goal of $30 million necessary to move the $120 million new museum project forward. Thanks to their foresight and generosity, the museum is no longer a dream that has been discussed for 20 years, but an attraction now in the planning stages. As it looks forward to the day the new museum opens, the Society is pleased to share stories of these visionaries and why they chose to support the project in such a significant way.

During its 117-year history, von Briesen & Roper, s.c, has grown to become one of the most respected law firms in the state, with more than 180 attorneys and over 350 employees at seven offices throughout Wisconsin and Chicago, with its largest office located in Milwaukee. Its website notes that it is proud to be “neither ‘Big Law’ nor a ‘small firm,’” adding that “our practice is global, national, regional and local and we are regularly chosen by industry leaders for their most significant and complicated legal matters, while at the same time assisting growing businesses, startups and entrepreneurs in addressing their legal needs.”

Jerabek, a graduate of UW-Madison and Marquette University Law School and an active member of the Madison community, specializes in estate planning and sports law, as well as business, tax and real estate.

The Wisconsin Historical Society’s 175-year history, which predates Wisconsin’s statehood, its world-renowned collections, and the wide array of services it provides students and citizens in all parts of the state uniquely positions it to tell the stories of our state, Jerabek said.

The Society’s long track record is a big reason why von Briesen & Roper, which is committed to community involvement and volunteer work, was so eager to support the new museum project, she said. The fact that new digital distance learning technology will allow the museum to connect with people of all ages across all 72 counties of Wisconsin in real time, bringing them stories of our shared history like never before, is especially exciting, she added.

“Not only will the new museum be an archive for our history, it will also provide education opportunities for generations to come,” Jerabek said. “Stepping back in time to see, feel, and experience history on a personal level will have a big impact. That is the ultimate gift to our future.”

Jerabek said she and her colleagues at the firm are looking forward to the exciting, modern exhibits that will be possible in the new museum, as well as the opportunity for the Society to finally publicly display its world-renowned collections, some of which date to the 1500s. Those items have not been able to be exhibited in the outdated Wisconsin Historical Museum on the Capitol Square, which is ill-equipped for the delicate task.

“We are most looking forward to the fresh and innovative ways of showcasing our history,” Jerabek said. “It is vitally important to both acknowledge and respect history, and we are so proud to be able to thank and remember those who made great strides for our state.”

- Dean Witter

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