Focusing on Future Leaders

With deep roots in Madison’s art and business communities, the Bolz family name is well known across the UW campus and beyond. Their generous endowment for the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the Wisconsin School of Business in 1993 is a prime example of their longstanding commitment to giving back with a focus on training future business leaders. As part of that legacy, John (Jack) ’50 and Marian Richter Bolz are honored to contribute in ways that have made such a difference to so many who aspire to lead our nation’s flourishing arts organizations.

“We recognize that we have been very fortunate in our own lives and want to give back,” says Jack. “The people who lead the arts need management skills, and we have seen the impact of our family’s past donations on the community.”

Jack’s parents had an enduring passion for music and the arts. He grew up in Maple Bluff, Wisconsin, in a home teeming with artwork. His love for music and the arts evolved naturally. As a young boy, he enjoyed playing the clarinet. To this day, he maintains a keen interest in classical symphonic and country music. When it came time to seek higher education, Jack chose the UW’s College of Letters & Science, earning a degree in political science and economics and solidifying his Badger loyalty.

Hailing from Chicago, Marian and her younger brother also had the good fortune of a childhood steeped in music and the arts. Early on, she fell in love with playing the piano. After high school, Marian made her way to Northwestern University. In 1950, she also earned a degree in political science and economics.

It was 1956 when Jack’s older brother, Robert ’44, a graduate of the UW Department of Engineering, was preparing to marry Anne Wilkins and asked Jack to be his best man. Serendipitously, Anne’s dear friend and roommate from Northwestern — Marian Richter — had agreed to be her maid of honor, further proving that some things are just meant to be. Jack and Marian wed the following year and raised five children together: Joan, Carolyn, Julia, Cathy, and John. They encouraged each of their children to embrace the arts as they had, offering ample opportunities to participate in music, drama, art, and ballet lessons. Jack and Marian found great joy in sharing their mutual love of plays, concerts, and shows, nurturing the passions they had enjoyed in their own childhoods.

Giving back is a part of Jack’s DNA; his mother and grandparents took a special interest in art and developing artists and musicians. Harmoniously, Marian’s passion for the arts grew as she immersed herself in the business side of running arts organizations and applied her exceptional managerial and marketing talents as a volunteer. Later in life, she would serve on the boards of numerous arts organizations in Madison, including the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

“The Bolz family has a robust and long-lasting philosophy of the importance of giving back and contributing to society and community,” shares their daughter Cathy. “Our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents served as excellent role models through their own philanthropy.”

Together, their family sponsored the Bolz Center program to prepare future arts leaders for the unique challenges that arts organizations face and the particular needs of the arts field. Over the past 27 years, the center has become a national leader in training executives to understand the arts and artists to understand business.

A Home for the Arts

Inspired by these deep roots of philanthropy, Jack and Marian have continued funding the center. It was only natural for them to want to make a significant contribution when the time came to move on from their family home in Rancho Mirage, California. Once more, serendipity played its part; the estate was previously owned by Jack’s mother, Eugenie Mayer Bolz, who frequently entertained artists and musicians, including pianist Earl Wild, composer and pianist Gunnar Johansen, and the founder of the Palms Springs Art Museum.

“This house was a lively gathering place for artists and those who appreciate the arts. It seems fitting that the proceeds from this home’s sale be used to improve the arts through the education of arts administrators,” shares Jack.

This gift of property is a testament to their belief in the mission and value of the Bolz Center program. The sale proceeds will provide a significant endowment to the center, ensuring its continued success for the generations that follow. Jack and Marian have been doubly fortunate to see the results of their generosity firsthand. As volunteers, board members, and donors, they have worked with graduates of the program who have attained top executive positions and are already making a difference in many arts organizations throughout the country. For Jack and Marian, theirs is a life of goodwill and giving back.

“We expect nothing in return for our giving except to visualize the betterment of the arts,” says Jack. “The fact that we can make the arts more effective and accessible is most important to us.”

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