Dr. Julie Underwood, former dean of School of Education, makes estate gift

Dr. Julie K. UnderwoodEducation Professor Dr. Julie K. Underwood, who for a decade served as dean of the nation’s top public university School of Education, is making an estate gift to the University of Wisconsin-Madison through the UW Foundation.

Dr. Underwood, who stepped down as dean last year but still teaches Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis and Educational Policy Studies, said she supports all forms of giving to the UW but that in her circumstances an estate gift was the best way to give a larger amount. “I wanted to make a meaningful gift, and it was easier at this time in my life and career to defer it and offer even more, in addition to my regular annual gifts,” she said.

Dr. Underwood, a nationally recognized authority on school law and a staunch proponent of public education, became dean of the School of Education in 2005. She oversaw a school that was able to build upon its research prowess and highly regarded national standing while at the same time finding new ways to address the needs of Wisconsin’s public schools. She led the $34 million expansion and renovation of the Education Building on Bascom Hill, completed in 2010. Dr. Underwood also helped establish the Wisconsin Center for Educational Products and Services that helps license and market innovative education products created by faculty, staff
and students.

U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 graduate school rankings place UW–Madison No. 1 among all public schools of education and fourth overall (the top three are Stanford, Harvard and Johns Hopkins). Many of the school’s graduate-level programs are ranked in the top three nationally.

“During my time as dean I was truly fortunate to work with so many people who are dedicated to improving lives and making the world a better place,” she said.

Dr. Underwood first arrived at UW-Madison in 1986 and worked as a faculty member until 1995. She then served as dean of Miami University’s School of Education and Allied Professions and from 1998 to 2005 served as associate executive director and general counsel for the National School Boards Association in Washington, D.C., providing advocacy for the nation’s public schools before the U.S. Supreme Court and federal appeals courts. She is the co-author of several well-regarded books in the education field, including The Principal’s Legal Handbook.

Dr. Underwood grew up in the Midwest, living in Madison longer than anywhere else. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and sociology from DePauw University, followed by a law degree from Indiana University and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Florida. This year she married a UW alum, Tom Neujahr; they met while serving together on the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Board. She has two children and two grandchildren.

She described the UW School of Education as having “a state mission and a national profile … with an excellent faculty and staff known nationally for their dedication.” She said her most memorable experiences have come from working with UW students.

“My experience with each person on our campus has influenced my career, my life and my decision to make a gift,” Dr. Underwood said. “A gift to the UW provides benefits to students, faculty and the institution for years and years.”