Philanthropy Key to Institutes of Discovery

John and Tashia MorgridgeJohn and Tashia Morgridge embraced the idea of interdisciplinary research in the 1990s, when the University of Wisconsin-Madison made its first cluster hires to promote collaboration.

Thursday, the couple’s commitment to science, discovery and the power of “great minds getting together” was honored during the grand opening of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

“We started with a good idea,” John Morgridge said. “We gave that idea to a lot of creative Wisconsin people. We have a spectacular facility as a result.”

The Morgridges, UW-Madison graduates who live in Portola Valley, California, donated $50 million to help build the public-private institutes that Governor Jim Doyle called a showpiece for the interdisciplinary research that goes on at the University. The 300,000-square-foot research building with public restaurants, meeting spaces and indoor garden also included $50 million in state funds and $105 million from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

The Morgridges have been significant donors to many University projects. Their most recent gifts included $34 million to renovate and expand the Education Building, which opened this fall. John Morgridge also joined 13 alumni who pledged $85 million to ensure the Wisconsin School of Business would not be renamed for at least 20 years.

Doyle acknowledged the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery had “fantastic partners” and that the state owed a debt of thanks to the Morgridges “beyond what words can say.” The couple was greeted with standing applause as they arrived on stage.

Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery

Nighttime falls during a time-exposure photo of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

People often ask why he supports Wisconsin projects, John Morgridge (’55 BBA BUS) said.  “You can actually get things done here,” he said, adding the building was finished in less time than it takes to build a home in Portola Valley. “You can have a vision, and before you die, you can get things done.”

This project is unique on campus because it includes public and private research laboratories under the same roof and a Town Center that is open to the public, Morgridge said. Teaching is a focus, for children, adults and professionals, and the building is located at the cross-roads of science at the University. “One of the things that advances humanity is trading,” he said. “This is a trading center for ideas.”

The institute was built to last 100 years, Tashia Morgridge (’55 BSE EDU) said. Science will change, so Thursday’s grand opening also represents the opening of an enormous opportunity. Her suggestion: “Let’s meet here in 2015 to see how science has evolved.”

For more information

Read the story about the Morgridges that appeared in The Capitol Times.