Wisconsin Historical Society

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W. Jerome Frautschi Receives 2009 'Jane Bradley Pettit Award for Distinction in Philanthropy'

Wisconsin History Maker Award

W. Jerome Frautschi Receives Wisconsin History Maker Award | Wisconsin Historical Society
W. Jerome Frautschi.

W. Jerome Frautschi, 2009

Philanthropist W. Jerome Frautschi is one of five individuals honored by the Society as a 2009 Wisconsin History Maker.

The Wisconsin Historical Society celebrated the lifetime achievements of W. Jerome Frautschi and his wife Pleasant Rowland Frautschi, along with three other individuals with Wisconsin ties, during the Fourth Annual History Makers Gala in Milwaukee in May 2009. W. Jerome Frautschi received The Jane Bradley Pettit Award for Distinction in Philanthropy.

A Wisconsin History Maker is a living individual who has recently made significant contributions to history in the state, across the nation or around the world. 

Since 1867, when Christian Frautschi immigrated to Wisconsin from Switzerland, the Frautschi family has called Madison home. For generations they have cared deeply and given generously to Wisconsin's capitol city. W. Jerome "Jerry" Frautschi has followed in that distinguished family tradition. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1956 and serving in the Navy during the Korean War, Jerry joined Webcrafters, the family's printing company, which he ran with his brother John for 42 years.

Following his family's model of community service, Jerry served on many nonprofit boards, among them: the Madison Community Foundation, the United Way as president and campaign chair, the Madison Art Center (now the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art), the Vilas Trust, Ten Chimneys, the Evjue Foundation, the University of Wisconsin Foundation, the Waisman Center Board of Visitors, and the Letters and Science Board of Visitors of the University of Wisconsin. In addition to major gifts to these and many other non-profit community organizations, of particular note was the gift of Second Point on Lake Mendota that he and his brother gave to the University to preserve its natural state.

Jerry watched the decline of downtown Madison during the 70's and 80's with dismay. After serving on the Monona Terrace Commission, responsible for the building of Madison's Convention Center, and further inspired by the restoration of the State Capitol, Jerry directed his efforts to reviving Madison's Capitol Square. Aware that the cultural arts organizations in Madison were inadequately served by the outdated Civic Center, Jerry made a signature gift to the city: Overture Center for the Arts.

Often cited as one of the largest gifts to the arts from a single donor in the United States, Overture Center fills an entire city block. Designed by world-famous architect, Cesar Pelli, it contains a 2100 seat concert hall, a refurbished 1927 historic landmark theater seating 1000, a 350-seat theater in the round, and the 79,000 square foot Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, along with four other community art galleries and other smaller performance venues.

The inscription on the wall in the rotunda of Overture Center expresses with characteristic modesty his motivation for this magnificent gift to the city he loves: "Overture Center, my gift to Madison, continues the tradition of civic pride and responsibility that my family has honored since 1867. It is given in appreciation of the good life Madison has given us."