A Beneficiary from the Heart

A second-generation Badger, Peter Hartman ’70 has developed strong ties to the state of Wisconsin and UW–Madison throughout his life. Originally from Janesville, Wisconsin, Hartman’s family temporarily relocated to Texas when he was 10 years old, and, fortunately, they returned to his hometown in time for him to attend high school.“

I applied to the UW primarily with my family’s example and encouragement,” shares Hartman. “I steadily improved my academic performance throughout my time there, given the stimulus provided by my classes, professors, and fellow students, and I graduated with a confidence in my abilities that I had previously lacked.”

His father, Albert B. Bostwick ’43, passed away before Hartman got his start at the UW. In addition to the shocking loss, he also witnessed how difficult it was for his mother living on her own, raising three children, and experiencing all the challenges of being a single parent. Although philanthropy wasn’t a part of Hartman’s upbringing, that experience greatly affected him — and giving back became central to his approach to life. His time at the university inspires his giving. “I want to help future students who may be deterred from attending the university because of a lack of adequate financial resources,” he says.

After graduating with an English literature degree, Hartman felt restless. And his life journey meandered through many phases. Heavily influenced by the campus upheavals and protests of the 1960s, he spent several years traveling throughout the United States and Mexico — working odd jobs before joining the Peace Corps for a stint in Nepal.

“I eventually settled in San Francisco, California, where I completed an introductory curriculum in civil engineering that led to a position at Pacific Gas and Electric Company,” he says. “I ultimately had a successful 30-year career in urban planning and economic development and retired in 2008.”


Soon after retiring, Hartman and his childhood friend and college roommate, Jim Harker ’70, took their shared passion for wine and founded SoMa Cellars — a small commercial brand making wine in the Napa Valley. During that time, while preparing his estate plan, Hartman pondered who he might want as his philanthropic beneficiary; and after an enlightening conversation with a friend, he came to a decision.

“As I thought about the influence the UW had on the course of my life, I became convinced that supporting the university that had set me on my entire life’s course was what I should do,” he says. “I established the Owl Fund — a scholarship fund named for a taxidermy owl that has been with me since my days in Madison — to help students like me through their college years.”

Hartman suggests that anyone contemplating a planned gift should think back to where they were when they entered college, how they were when they graduated, where they are today, and what influence those years and experiences had on the direction of their life. That’s the process he used to guide his decision to create an endowed fund that will provide scholarship support to undergraduate students at the UW, reducing pressure on recipients to engage in significant outside employment while attending college.“

The legacy I want to leave is a means for future students to attend the UW and achieve their full potential,” says Hartman. “My time at the university opened up the world to me — intellectually, culturally, socially — and it continues to pique my curiosity to this day. I can’t imagine any other path that would have had a more profound effect.”

If you would like to learn more about providing scholarship support through your estate plan, please contact our gift planning office at 608-308-5334.

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