Giving back: Morgridges ‘planting trees’ for next generation

John and Tashia Morgridge reception, UW-Green BayUW-Green Bay students, parents and a number of UWGB staff members and administrators had the extreme pleasure of meeting with John and Tashia Morgridge and the Executive Director of their “Fund for Wisconsin Scholars (FFWS),” Mary Gulbrandsen, Monday, March 9.

The Morgridges are among America’s foremost philanthropists, endowing a grant program for UW students in 2007 that began with a $175 million gift. At present, more than 100 UWGB students are beneficiaries of the FFWS grants, which provides more than $340,000 yearly and has provided nearly $2 million in grants to UWGB students over the past seven years. Recipients receive $3,500 per year for up to 10 semesters as long as they maintain full-time status and show academic progress toward their degree.

The couple, now married 60 years, has bicycled across the United States, cross-country skied above the Arctic Circle and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, among other adventures. They stopped in at UW-Green Bay for a brief reception to meet the grant recipients and their families, and offer a bit of advice.

UW-Green Bay Chancellor Miller extended greetings and deep gratitude on behalf of UWGB, describing the Morgridges as the most generous people in the country, thanking them for helping to transform the lives of UWGB students through higher education.

Tashia Morgridge asked those in attendance to think about the quote written by Nelson Henderson — “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

“You are the trees,” she said. “You will change the world for the next generation. You will provide the expertise, the communication, the education … and as a result you will be planting your own trees providing shade for your own children.”

John Morgridge said that each student should have mental and physical goals, and they should be ready to make important decisions when opportunities present themselves. Decisions like marriage, job opportunities, etc.

The Morgridges, who met at Wauwatosa (East) High School, and earned undergraduate degrees at UW-Madison, asked the students to be responsible with their education, and hoped the FFWS grants would help them graduate with minimal debt.

John earned his master’s in business administration from Stanford, and Tashia a master’s degree in education from Lesley College in Massachusetts in 1975, before dedicating her life’s work to special education instruction. John joined Cisco in 1988 as president and CEO when the internet was in its infancy. He led a handful of employees and new technologies to a growing company, which by 1994 had more than 2,200 workers and more than $1 billion in sales. Today Cisco employs more than 74,000 people through operations in 165 countries and net sales of $47.1 billion in 2014.

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— Photos by Eric Miller, photographer, Office of Marketing and University Communication