Jerome Chazen’s Legacy

The late philanthropist was a passionate supporter of UW–Madison and its art museum.

Jerome and Simona Chazen celebrate the opening of the Chazen Museum of Art

Chazen (with wife Simona) found great joy in introducing new audiences to the art world. Jeff Miller

UW–Madison lost one of its greatest supporters when Jerome Chazen ’48 died in February. The university’s Chazen Museum of Art was renamed for Jerome and Simona Chivian Chazen x’49 when they gave a lead gift that facilitated the museum’s 2011 expansion.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank says that Chazen found great joy in introducing new audiences to the art world and that he “was deeply devoted to the arts and to education.” Museum director Amy Gilman says, “He was a force in every part of his life — business, family, art collecting, philanthropy — and perhaps his most profound legacy will be his everlasting pursuit of his passions.”

Jerry and Simona met while students at UW–Madison. In the 1980s, they became active in what was then the Elvehjem Museum of Art. By 1997 Simona had joined its advisory council. In 2000 the couple made their first gift of art to the museum, Harvey Littleton’s Red Squared Descending Form (1982).

The Chazens have served on the museum’s advisory council for 25 years. They have already given many works of art to the museum, and eventually the UW will hold a large part of their remarkable collection.

Jerry, who majored in economics, credited a UW–Madison art history course with awakening his interest in the visual arts. He earned an MBA from Columbia Business School in 1950 and in 1977 became one of four founding partners of Liz Claiborne, Inc., steering its phenomenal growth and success in the 1980s. He also served as founder and chairman of Chazen Capital Partners, a private equity firm in New York.

At UW–Madison, the Chazens endowed the Chazen Family Distinguished Chair in Art in the School of Education and the Simona and Jerome Chazen Distinguished Chair in Art History in the College of Letters & Science. Jerry served on the board of directors for the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (WFAA) and received an honorary degree from the university in 2018.

In the words of WFAA CEO Mike Knetter, “Jerry’s gifts to the university and the world go far beyond his philanthropy. He was a great partner, friend, mentor, and role model. I will cherish the memories of Jerry’s wisdom, patience, kindness, smile, and generosity as we care for his legacy at Wisconsin through the Chazen Museum.”

Published in the Summer 2022 issue

Tags: Alumni, Arts, Campus buildings, Campus history, Chazen Museum

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