Major Gift Focuses on Investing in Each Other 

You may have heard the term Smallwaukee. It’s when you meet someone new with whom you share a Milwaukee-related connection — like our own version of the phrase “it’s a small world.”

That’s how this story begins: with a touching example of Smallwaukee that inspired a $1 million gift to the Lubar School of Business to help UWM students advance in both the investment management and nursing fields. And even more so, that will provide an opportunity for UWM students to support each other.

Gary Elfe (’76 BS Economics, ’78 MBA) and his wife Denise Elfe (’77 BFA Theater Education) always felt a strong affinity with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where they met as students.

As a highly-regarded investment manager and co-founder of Baird Advisors, Gary became especially interested in the Investment Management Certificate Program (IMCP) in the Lubar School of Business. He served on the IMCP advisory board for almost ten years and guest lectured on various topics.

“Gary’s priority was that our students have a top-flight education,” says Kevin Spellman, David O. Nicholas Director of Investment Management. “For him, it was imperative that students not only develop a solid knowledge of the fundamentals, but also have the opportunity to manage real money portfolios during their two years in the program.”

But in recent years, Gary, who passed away in November, also developed a personal connection to UWM’s College of Nursing program. During numerous hospital stays as he battled Parkinson’s disease, he discovered that many of the outstanding nurses who cared for him were also UWM nursing alumni.

“He was always delighted that an alum was his new best friend for me to meet each stay,” says Denise.

Recently, Denise established a $1 million fund – The Elfe Family Business Fund – for investment management students at the Lubar School of Business to gain hands-on investment management experience under the supervision of Spellman.

With a nod to Gary’s nurses, Denise specified that annual earnings allocations from the student-managed portfolio will be earmarked both for the IMCP operating fund and for The Elfe Family Nursing Grant Fund, providing emergency financial assistance to College of Nursing students.

“I just know that Gary would have liked to help investment management students and say thanks to those nurses by helping the next generation get the financial support they need to succeed,” Denise shares.

Gary was also instrumental in the 2016 establishment of the Baird Fund, Denise notes, a major gift to the Lubar School from anonymous donors associated with Baird and from Baird Advisors and the Baird Foundation. This fund is also managed by IMCP students, with earnings going toward IMCP and Peck School of the Arts Theatre scholarships. Close to $250,000 in awards have been generated by the student portfolio in just four years.

“This gift to The Elfe Family Business Fund is especially meaningful because it not only makes a difference in the quality of the educational experience for our students, but also reinforces something that Gary modeled in his own life – using our talents and resources to help others,” notes Lubar School of Business Dean Kaushal Chari.

“Being able to manage actual money is one thing, but when your success allows others to succeed, that is incredibly satisfying,” says IMCP student Benjamin Solak.

College of Nursing Dean Kim Litwack adds, “We’re incredibly grateful to the Elfe family for establishing the Elfe Family Nursing Grant Fund. This gift will have a deep, long-lasting impact on student success, resulting in a well-prepared nursing workforce in Wisconsin.”

IMCP students will begin investing in their portfolio later this year. The first Elfe Family Nursing Grants will likely be awarded in Fall 2022.