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Kellner Gift to Bolster Synergy Between School of Education, Center for Healthy Minds
March 23, 2015

Image by Jeff Miller, University Communications, UW–Madison

UW–Madison alumni Mary and Ted Kellner have decided to strengthen their ongoing support of the university and its School of Education by providing a generous gift of $1.5 million that will establish a new Distinguished Chair position.

These funds will sponsor a new faculty member who specializes in child development, social-emotional learning, and mindfulness-based approaches in education. While this person’s faculty home will be the School of Education, whoever fills this post will work closely with the university’s Center for Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, which is a trailblazer in research on social-emotional learning and the impact of well-being in the classroom.

“The Kellners’ generosity continues to make our School of Education a special place,” says UW–Madison School of Education Dean Julie Underwood. “We have benefitted from the Kellner Family Professorship in Urban Education since 2005. Now we will benefit from the stronger connection we will be able to forge with the Center for Healthy Minds this Distinguished Chair position.”

Richard Davidson, the founder of the Center, says the Kellner gift will play a crucial role in helping the Center build its talent pool by recruiting the best and brightest scientists, scholars and thought leaders from various disciplines. In an effort to more closely align CHM with the School of Education on some of this work, Davidson was recently given an affiliate appointment within the Department of Educational Psychology.

“The problems we are examining are complicated and can’t be solved from a single perspective,” says Davidson, the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at UW–Madison. “Building our team and working together across campus will form the collective energy and intellect to lead research that will impact these problems in a real and sustained way. The Kellner gift will allow CHM and the School of Education to build on an already established international reputation of both of our organizations.”

Mary Kellner, in particular, has close ties to the School of Education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from UW–Madison in 1968, and is a former teacher, guidance counselor and coordinator of school-based programs to prevent drug and alcohol abuse.

“I’m really excited about Richard Davidson’s mindfulness work that has shown great potential in helping cultivate qualities of compassion and kindness, and student success,” says Mary Kellner. “I’ve always been very interested in finding ways to help different units on campus collaborate and work together in an effort to better help children succeed, and I believe this new Distinguished Chair position does just that.”

Mary Kellner also maintains a close relationship with Gloria Ladson-Billings, the current Kellner Chair of Urban Education. Ladson-Billings is one of the nation’s preeminent experts in examining the practices of teachers who are successful with African American students.

"I’m really excited about Richard Davidson’s mindfulness work that has shown great potential in helping cultivate qualities of compassion and kindness, and student success."

Mary Kellner

In addition to Mary Kellner’s backing of, and involvement with, numerous community based activities, the resident of Mequon, Wisconsin, also serves on the School of Education’s Board of Visitors. Ted Kellner earned his undergraduate degree in business from UW–Madison in 1968, and the Kellner name is on two prominent campus spaces recognizing their significant support and contributions: Kellner Hall, the administrative offices for UW Athletics; and the Wisconsin School of Business’ Kellner Lecture Hall.

Mary Kellner says this most recent gift to the School of Education is due, in part, to matching funds being made available via a $100 million landmark contribution to UW–Madison in November by John and Tashia Morgridge, with Tashia being an alumna of the School of Education. In an effort to recruit and retain world-class faculty, the Morgridge gift is being used to match donations – this recent gift from the Kellners – for new and enhanced professorships, chairs and distinguished chairs.

“That’s is definitely something we wanted to take advantage of,” says Mary Kellner. “What a wonderful gift from the Morgridges.”

The Morgridge contribution represents the lead gift of the university’s upcoming comprehensive campaign, which is currently in the planning phase. The Morgridges serve as co-chairs of UW–Madison’s campaign planning committee. Mary Kellner is part of the School of Education’s campaign planning committee, which is being chaired by Susan Cellmer and Marlene Hartzman.

Todd Finkelmeyer

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