Milwaukee, WI

The Milwaukee couple giving away their billion dollar fortune

Ash Jurberg

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I have been writing a series of articles on business leaders and entrepreneurs, examining how they give back to their communities.

Today I want to take a look at the Milwaukee couple who are giving their fortune away.

The Milwaukee couple giving away their billion-dollar fortune

John and Tashia Morgridge grew up in Wauwatosa in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. They met at high school and attended the same college.

John had many part-time jobs, including washing walls in Milwaukee's Pabst Brewery and doing road construction on Highway 64 before he graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1955 with a major in business. Tashia graduated the same year with a major in education.

While Tashia worked in special education, John worked for numerous computer and IT companies before joining Cisco in 1988. At the time, Cisco was only four years old and had just 34 employees.

By 1995 he was CEO, a position he held until he retired in 2006. At the time, Cisco had 50,000 employees across 77 countries.

Thanks to his large number of shares in Cisco in 1996, John became a billionaire.

And ever since, he has been trying to give most of his fortune away.

Philanthropy

In 1992 the Morgridges formed the Tosa Foundation, a family foundation named after the high school they both attended. They used the name Tosa so they could make their donations anonymously.

Ever since, they have both given back to organizations across Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. In addition, the foundation supports education, conservation, global development, and public health organizations.

Some of their larger donations include:

  • $100 million to The University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2014. Over the last 20 years, the Morgridges have made several large donations to UW, including $34 million in 2019 and $70 million in 2020.
  • $175 million to create the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars, which gives college tuition grants to low-income students attending Wisconsin's public universities. This is the second-largest philanthropic act in Wisconsin state history.
  • $50 million to help create the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. This is a facility that houses two world-class biomedical research institutes.

The Morgridges signed the Giving Pledge, in which they promised to give the majority of their fortune away. In making their promise public, they confirmed their commitment to dedicating a significant portion of their philanthropy to Wisconsin.

"It is a place where you can get things done. It has a scale that is doable…you can meet the people that you need to meet and get the work done that you’re hoping to get done," Tashia Morgridge

So far, the Morgridges have given away more than half of their billion-dollar fortune. And they don't intend to stop.

"Through our foundation and also personally, we have now given away over half our net worth. It is our intent to remain involved and to continue to give. Our children intend to carry on their work after we are gone." John and Tashia Morgridge

Readers, what do you think of their commitment to charity? What other organizations in Milwaukee would you like to see them contribute to.

Please leave your comments below.

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