A Gift from the Heart Preserves Danish Studies

Dr Renate Madsen

Dr. Renate Madsen who displays a portrait of her late husband, Dr. Paul Madsen, was an anesthesiologist and role model for female medical students and physicians in a male-dominated environment. Growing up, the family’s heritage was a central part of their home and family life. They were raised German-American, and Paul remained an active Dane. He was made a Knight of the Order of Dannebrog by Denmark’s Queen Margrethe. The painting in the photo depicts the family farm in rural Denmark, where Paul grew up and where he and Renate were married.

Three children and five of the Madsens’ grandchildren have continued the Badger tradition, and their philanthropy is a way to ensure future generations will continue to have access to outstanding educational opportunities.

UW-Madison boasts a strong tradition of teaching and research in Danish language and culture, due in no small part to the large immigrant populations from Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany that arrived in Wisconsin during the 19th century.

Danish culture, moreover, holds a unique place in the history of Europe, having influenced the cultures of Norway, Sweden and Iceland, while inspiring scholarship in Danish design and a passion for Scandinavian heritage among Americans.

Even so, budget reductions have fallen heavily on the languages and the humanities, with little outside funding to preserve the university’s historic strengths in those disciplines. Thanks to a $2 million gift from Drs. Paul and Renate Madsen last October, the UW-Madison College of Letters & Science will remain strong in Danish studies.

The Madsens, both longtime faculty members in the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, honored their family’s heritage by establishing the Paul and Renate Madsen Professorship in Danish. Paul Madsen, who died on Nov. 4, 2013, grew up on a farm in rural Denmark before attending the University of Copenhagen. During a fellowship at the University of Heidelberg, Paul met Renate, a German medical student.

“Paul and Renate Madsen’s gift is an extraordinary legacy,” said John Karl Scholz, L&S dean. “Thanks to this gift, future generations of Badgers will be able to learn about this historically important language and culture for years to come. The Madsen gift ensures continued excellence in Danish studies, which will ultimately strengthen our German and Scandinavian programs.”