Sheldon and Marianne Lubar donate $10 million to create entrepreneurship center at UWM

Philanthropists Sheldon and Marianne have donated $10 million to UWM to establish the Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship to bring together, enhance and expand UWM’s strong array of entrepreneurial programs, classes and activities, benefiting students and start-up and growing companies throughout the region.

Chancellor Mark Mone announced the donation on Thursday, along with plans for a new welcome center that will house the Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship and serve as the gateway to campus.

Sheldon Lubar unveils plans for Center for Entrepreneurship

This is the Lubars’ second $10 million gift to UWM. They donated $10 million in 2006 to endow professorships and student scholarships at what is now the Lubar School of Business. They also have been strong supporters of the Peck School of the Arts and Golda Meir Library.

“Today we’re talking about intelligent entrepreneurship that will enhance our community and our economy beyond anyone’s fondest hope,” Sheldon Lubar told university leaders, faculty members, students and others during a news conference in Chapman Hall. “The objective of the Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship is to teach and motivate students, as well as business people in large and small companies, to take advantage of the opportunity that ownership brings. Simply said, you can be an owner of a business if you know how to think and act like an owner.”

Lubar said he hopes the center’s entrepreneurial spirit will spread across the University of Wisconsin System and boost the economy in a state that ranks low in startup business activity.

“Marianne and I have made entrepreneurship a part of our lives for more than 50 years,” he said earlier in prepared remarks. “Marianne in philanthropy, and I in business. Our four children are now doing the same. We believe education and entrepreneurship are the pathways to a happy, productive and rewarding life.”

UWM will construct the welcome center at the corner of E. Kenwood Boulevard and Maryland Avenue, where it will be the first stop for prospective students and others visiting UWM. With support from UW System and other private donors, total investment in the building and entrepreneurship center will be about $25 million.

“We are excited that the first place prospective students visit will include the Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship,” Mone said. “The spirit of innovation will infuse and inspire their education here. This is a real win for students, faculty, staff and the community because this center embraces all, providing opportunities for participation. For some, the goal will be bringing to market products and services. For others, it will be transforming lives in our region with social entrepreneurship.”

The Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship also will support the mission of the University of Wisconsin System as the state’s first program of its kind. UW System President Ray Cross said the center will provide a welcoming and challenging intellectual environment for students interested starting businesses, as well as students who think of themselves as social entrepreneurs dealing in the marketplace of ideas.

“It isn’t just going into a commercial business,” Cross said. “It’s also those social entrepreneurs that are innovating ideas, creating new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking about how this goes together, and bringing faculty and students together to translate that into reality.”

As Wisconsin’s only public urban research university, UWM is uniquely positioned to provide students with opportunities to collaborate with companies and nonprofit organizations, fostering new, creative ways of doing business. The partnerships reflect the university’s commitment to community engagement — working with others to transform lives and the region’s economy.

“This center builds on great work already happening at UWM and in the Milwaukee region,” said Brian Thompson, president of the UWM Research Foundation, “and it will help ensure that UWM continues to be a strong source for talent and ideas that drive Wisconsin’s prosperity.”

Students at UWM receive training in entrepreneurial thinking and practice, with opportunities to start new businesses and scale up existing firms. This real-world, hands-on experience furthers UWM’s mission of student success, ensuring graduates enter the job market with the skills they need to be successful.

“It is critical for UWM students and alums to be creative and entrepreneurial thinkers,” Mone said. “Wisconsin has fallen behind other states in creating new jobs and launching startup companies. At UWM, we’ve worked to create strong business partnerships and student engagement in innovation and entrepreneurship is at an all-time high. Bolstering this kind of entrepreneurial ecosystem is vital to a healthy economy and job creation.”

The center will incorporate and encourage entrepreneurial activities within and among UWM’s 14 schools and colleges, including interdisciplinary and social entrepreneurship programs. Examples of vibrant entrepreneurial activities already exist at the Lubar School of Business, the College of Engineering & Applied Science, the School of Information Studies, the School of Freshwater Sciences, the Peck School of the Arts and the UWM Research Foundation.

“The Lubars clearly recognize that higher education is a springboard to lifelong success, and that investing in educational opportunity will produce tangible dividends for generations to come,” said Regina Millner, president of the UW System Board of Regents. “On behalf of the Board of Regents, I’d like to thank the Lubars for making a difference with their longstanding support of UWM.”

The Lubars’ gift will be used to establish and operate the center. A center director will oversee and coordinate the center’s programs with faculty members already engaged in entrepreneurship at UWM. The center’s activities will include leading an effort to expand “ideas challenge” courses that pair entrepreneurship activities with existing curriculum. The classes will be interactive, team-oriented and project-based. The center also will bring in speakers and develop educational programming to support entrepreneurial learning and help build skills.

“It’s not just about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen,” said Michael J. Falbo, former president of the UW System Board of Regents. “With their generous gift, the Lubars will help countless Wisconsin students to do just that, by providing them with the means and opportunity to explore entrepreneurial possibilities.”

The founder and chairman of Lubar & Co., a private investment firm, Sheldon Lubar also has had a distinguished career in public service — as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration and president of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents. He co-founded and served as president of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

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