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Pleasant Rowland Frautschi Receives Wisconsin History Maker Award | Wisconsin Historical Society

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Pleasant Rowland Frautschi Receives 2009 'Jane Bradley Pettit Award for Distinction in Philanthropy'

Wisconsin History Maker Award

Pleasant Rowland Frautschi Receives Wisconsin History Maker Award | Wisconsin Historical Society
Pleasant Rowland Frautschi.

Pleasant Rowland Frautschi, 2009

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

The Wisconsin Historical Society celebrated the lifetime achievement of Pleasant Rowland Frautschi and her husband W. Jerome Frautschi, along with three other individuals with Wisconsin ties, during the Fourth Annual History Makers Gala in Milwaukee in May 2009. Rowland 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. 

Pleasant Rowland Frautschi is a noted educator and business leader whose career began as a primary grade teacher. Her lifelong interest in teaching children to read grew from her classroom experience and ultimately led to her authorship of reading and language arts programs used widely for over 35 years in schools throughout the country, teaching millions of children to read.

In 1985, she combined her love of American history and her commitment to high-quality educational products to create "The American Girls Collection.®" The American Girls line of historically accurate books, dolls, and accessories is lauded for its ability to make American history come alive for a generation of young girls.

Pleasant served as president and chairman of American Girl™ for 15 years and has been honored for her business achievements. American Girl was selected from a field of 3,000 corporations for its exceptional vision and outstanding management. Ms. Rowland was chosen as one of the 12 outstanding entrepreneurs in the nation and was a national finalist for the Entrepreneur of the Year award. She has been cited as one of the "100 Best and Brightest Marketers" in America and as one of "America's Top 50 Women Business Owners." She holds honorary degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Hartford.

In 2000, she sold American Girl and retired from the company to form the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. Since then, she has focused her energies on her philanthropic interests in arts, education, and historic preservation. Her philanthropic contributions include:

  • The preservation and restoration of the historic village of Aurora, New York
  • The saving of Red Pine Camp and its beautiful natural site in northern Wisconsin from development
  • The gift of Evening Island and the Garden of the Great Basin to the Chicago Botanic Garden in honor of her parents
  • The endowment of a gallery in a new wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum
  • A lead gift for the restoration of Ten Chimneys and its Visitors Center
  • The construction of the aquatic center at Meriter Retirement Center, Madison
  • Major gifts to the University of Wisconsin including a child care center at the Waisman Center, a gallery in the new wing of the Chazen Museum of Art, and the endowment of the directorship for the Center for Textile Studies in the School of Human Ecology.
  • She founded the American Girls' Fund for Children during her years at American Girl, which continues to this day as the major benefactor to the Madison Children's Museum and a wide spectrum of children's arts and cultural activities in the community.

Pleasant's philanthropic interests often complement those of her husband, Jerry Frautschi. She created "Concerts on the Square," a hallmark of summer in Madison for the past 25 years, credited as one of the first ventures to revitalize the downtown. She donated the iconic fountain on top of Monona Terrace, the Madison convention center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Her gift of a 4,000-pipe concert organ graces the stage of Overture Hall within the Overture Center in Madison. And she founded the Great Performance Fund, a $46 million endowment to support the resident-arts organizations of Overture Center, matching all other gifts from community donors.

In 2004, her career came full circle when she founded the Rowland Reading Foundation, dedicated to improving reading instruction in the primary grades. This nonprofit organization holds all publication rights to the reading program she wrote earlier in her career. She leads this enterprise today.