Campus Donors Who Give Big For Art—What Makes Them Tick?

I've written before about Jerome Chazen, founder and chairman of Chazen Capital Partners, and his wife Simona. The Chazens are major art collectors with more than 500 pieces by 200 modern and contemporary artists. A lot of the couple's art philanthropy focuses on New York, where the Museum of Arts and Design,  Lincoln Center of Performing Arts, MoMA, Roundabout Theater Company, and others have received support.

Another significant site of philanthropy for the Chazens is the Wisconsin; they both attended University of Wisconsin. A big gift last decade created the University of Wisconsin’s Chazen Museum of Art.

Related: Arts and Alma Maters: A Few Things About Jerome Chazen's Philanthropy

Now comes recent news that the Chazens are once again supporting the arts at the University of Wisconsin with a $28 million pledge in the form of several valuable pieces of art from their private collection, an additional gift of $5 million for the Chazen Museum of Art building, and $3 million to establish the Chazen Family Distinguished Chair in Art and the Simona and Jerome Chazen Distinguished Chair in Art Education. 

We talk all the time about how donors can refine and deepen earlier efforts at a school, happy with the way their money has been spent. The Chazens' $20 million gift to the Chazen Museum of Art was followed up by another $25 million in 2009. Another $5 million also went to the University of Wisconsin in 2010. Add to that alumni loyalty—double the amount in this case, as both Chazen and Simona attended the school—and it's easy to understand the strong motivations behind a gift like this. Simona has also been on the advisory board at the museum for more than a decade.

Still, a donor with a passion for the arts and art collecting might just as easily restrict their philanthropy to the cultural institutions in their immediate orbit. This could easily have been the case for the Chazens, with New York City's institutions in the foreground. The Chazens' support of the arts at the University of Wisconsin is a good reminder of how donors can stay in an alma mater's orbit for years, despite also being pulled in other directions, too.