Climbing My Mountain

In Sheldon Lubar’s recently published memoir Climbing My Mountain, the namesake of UWM’s Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business describes his extraordinary life as a highly successful executive, self-made entrepreneur, public servant, philanthropist, and family man.

Lubar has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Rainier, among other peaks, but he says that the title of the book is really a metaphor for his life. The book includes many stories of success, a few of failure, and describes Lubar’s motivation, self-discipline, and the value system that has sustained him.

He grew up as one of three children of Joe Lubar, a Russian immigrant, and Charlotte Stern Lubar of Milwaukee. Raised in the Sherman Park neighborhood and later Whitefish Bay, a college education was expected of him and his sisters. He earned business and law degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The book describes his experience rising through Marine National Exchange Bank in the 1950s and 1960s, until a turning point in his career.

In 1966, he started his own company under a concept he developed and called “professional ownership.” His vision separated ownership from management but still combined their skills and aligned their objectives.

“It was a way to buy a smaller company and build it into a larger, better one,” he writes. “It worked beyond my expectations.”

Key to his success in business and life, he says, has been relying on his knowledge and judgement, and valuing character, integrity, and honesty – in himself and others.

“I also had the luck of genetics,” he shares. “My parents’ wisdom, practical good sense, and decency were guiding and inspirational to me.”

In addition to chronicling the history of his business career, Climbing My Mountain also describes Lubar’s life as a public servant, most notably his appointments under three United States presidents, including as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Housing and Development and Commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration, and his service as President of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents and other major state-level posts.

In the book, Lubar also emphasizes the values that he and his wife of 67 years, Marianne Lubar, have instilled in their children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren. High among those is the importance of giving back.

Education has been prominent among the Lubar family’s philanthropical priorities, with significant gifts to multiple institutions, most notably the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He describes the naming of UWM’s Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business in 2006 as “truly an honor,” and says that the family’s belief that entrepreneurship can be learned and developed through education was the impetus for their more recent gift to establish the university’s Lubar Entrepreneurship Center.

“Commitment to lifetime education is first and foremost in my judgement,” he told Lubar students in a 2006 speech that is included in the book. “Education can never cease. You must be a listener, a questioner, a reader, a viewer, and finally a thinker. Education is Decision One in a successful life. Pursuing it is a lifetime assignment. I am always reading, listening, questioning, and thinking.”

And, thankfully, writing.