Naming Rights

When their children were born, these Badger parents chose a memorable moniker.

Steve Bohl has heard them all. From elementary school to high school to his days living in Jones House in Kronshage Hall at the University of Wisconsin, the pronunciation of his last name — bowl — led to all kinds of wannabe comedians showcasing their creativity.

(with sister Kaitlyn, right)

Madison Bohl. Courtesy of the Bohl Family.

“With a name like Bohl, he’s lived with it all his life,” says Steve’s wife, Heather, who chuckles as the list runs through her head. “Tupperware bowl, crystal bowl, Super Bowl, toilet bowl — you name it.”

Little did she know, though, just how perfect that name would become when she and Steve first met during the second week of freshman year at a Lakeshore residence hall event. After their circles of friends merged, they began sitting together at Camp Randall football games, and then started dating. They traveled to California to witness the Badgers’ 1994 Rose Bowl victory firsthand, and before graduating together in December 1995 — Heather in elementary education, Steve in mechanical engineering — they tied the knot.

Although Steve had grown up in Pittsburgh, his UW ties ran deep. His father, Henry, earned his UW undergraduate degree in 1954 and his master’s degree in 1955. His mother had attended Western College for Women with Donna Shalala, who would later become the UW’s chancellor. (When Steve, who had applied for admission only at the UW, arrived on campus, “Everyone else got their [orientation] tour, and I got one from the chancellor,” he brags.) His brother, Peter, also became a Badger, graduating a couple years after Steve did. And when friends had the audacity to get married on a Badger football Saturday, Steve listened to the game in church on a transistor radio stashed in the inside pocket of his tux.

Steve and Heather settled in Hudson, Wisconsin, on the border with Minnesota. When Heather became pregnant in 2000, a potential son’s name proved elusive. But Steve had his future daughter’s name all picked out: Madison Rose Bohl.

“I suppose the first time I thought of it was when we started thinking about having kids. Once it was, ‘Okay, we’re really having a kid; you have to pick out names,’ right away I kind of threw it out there,” Steve says proudly. “We went through the name book on the boys’ side, but right away, it was, ‘How about Madison Rose Bohl?’ I think Heather actually started laughing at how great it was. It came up once, and that was it.”

When their daughter was born in April 2001, Madison was the second-most popular girl’s name in America. In 2012, it ranked ninth — although, strangely, it ranked only twenty-ninth in Wisconsin, with only 116 Madisons born in the state that year, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration. “We thought we were being so unique and unusual, and here it was one of the most popular names in the country,” Heather says. “We like to say that there are a lot of Madisons, but there are no other Madisons like this one.”

In Hudson, Madison’s name is quite the curiosity, especially at school, where Heather teaches fifth grade and Madison is in seventh grade. A few years ago, a friend of a friend had dinner with former Badgers quarterback Darrell Bevell, who at the time was working as a Minnesota Vikings assistant coach. Bevell, who led the Badgers to that 1994 Rose Bowl title, loved the story of Madison’s name.

For her part, Madison insists on being called Madison, not Maddie. She’s a typical twelve-year-old who enjoys playing soccer, swimming, being a big sister to Kaitlyn, playing percussion in the school band, and beating her parents at Wisconsinopoly. (“Right now, I own the Kollege Klub, the Memorial Union, Langdon Street, and the University Book Store,” she says.)

She knows where she wants to go to school, although not for the reason one might think.

“I think my name’s pretty cool — how my parents came up with the idea. But I don’t necessarily feel like I have to go to Wisconsin. I feel like I want to,” Madison says. Her goal? “I want to play the crash cymbals in the Wisconsin Marching Band. Going to the games, my favorite part is the Fifth Quarter.”

Not every Madison born to UW alumni winds up enrolling at Madison, however. Brian ’83, MD’88 and Leslie Frohna were dating other people when they met at University Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, during their first year of medical residency. Brian was a three-year letterman in crew, but Leslie was a Wolverine, having received her medical degree from the University of Michigan. The Big Ten rivalry didn’t stop them from dating, though, and by the time they completed their residency training, they had married. Next up was moving to Rochester, Minnesota, to begin one-year fellowships at the Mayo Clinic.

Madison Frohna. Courtesy of the Frohna Family.

Madison Frohna. Courtesy of the Frohna Family.

Leslie became pregnant in 1993, and when their fellowships were over that year, the two radiologists were hired by the same hospital in Arizona.

“During the course of our three-day drive to Phoenix, we were talking about what we were going to name our daughter,” Brian recalls. “This was right around the time when English surnames were becoming popular as girls’ first names. I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we named her Madison for her first name, and Ann for Ann Arbor [as her middle name]?’ ”

He got no argument from Leslie. “I love Madison. I’ve been there a couple times, and I think it’s an awesome place,” she says. “It reminds me of Ann Arbor, except it’s prettier, with the lakes. I was just fine with naming her Madison.”

Living in Arizona, the Frohnas’ name choice wasn’t the same conversation starter as the Bohls’ — at least not when their Madison was born. In 1993, Madison was seventy-eighth on the list of popular girls’ names.

“I think most people thought it was cool,” Brian offers. Then, Leslie interjects, “I think some of them thought we were weird.”

Fast forward to when Madison was a senior in high school: Brian took her to the Badgers game against Nebraska at Camp Randall. By then, she’d narrowed her college choices to two: Wisconsin and Michigan.

“I actually thought that would sway her,” he says, laughing.

It didn’t. She’s not interested in being a doctor like Mom and Dad. “I want to go into business; I’m not really interested in science or medicine at all,” she says. Today she’s a sophomore at Ann Arbor, where her fellow Wolverines constantly ask about her name.

“They think it’s funny,” Madison says. “Whenever people at school meet me, they say, ‘Are you named [after] Madison, Wisconsin?’ ”

These days, Brian finds himself outnumbered by females in his family. He and Leslie now have four daughters. Maya, seventeen, just graduated from high school, and in the fall, she will attend … Michigan. Brian is holding out hope that Amalia, fifteen, a high school sophomore, or Kaila, thirteen, now in eighth grade, will wind up at the UW.

“We’ll see,” he says. “As the girls come out of high school, I make sure they have high-quality colleges that they’re looking at, and I count Wisconsin right up there. If they decide to go, that’s great. If not, that’s their choice. … I want them to be happy with their decision, not unhappy with my decision. It’s their call — but I’ll always be Badger.”

Courtesy of the Wilde Family.

Jason Wilde ’94 covers the Green Bay Packers for ESPNWisconsin.com. His own daughter Madison arrived in 2010. 

Tags: Alumni, Athletics, football

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