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Cofrin’s $5.5 million gift benefits UW-Green Bay, honors Fort Howard founder

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The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has announced that a $5.5 million gift received earlier this year from Dr. David A. Cofrin, coupled with previous gifts from the Cofrin Family, will result in creation of the University’s second fully endowed chair, a permanent endowment to fund academic enhancements, and a new name for the school’s business program.

Chancellor Thomas K. Harden revealed the news this morning (Monday, Oct. 26). The announcement follows a series of meetings this fall with faculty leaders to finalize plans for applying the Cofrin gift. Harden also conferred recently with UW System President Kevin P. Reilly, who in turn consulted members of the UW System Board of Regents regarding Green Bay’s proposal.


“This is a magnificent contribution,” Harden said, “and we are deeply grateful. Few universities are blessed with friends as loyal as the Cofrin Family.”


David Cofrin passed away in August in Gainesville, Fla., at the age of 85 following a long illness. He and his wife, Mary Ann, have been generous and longtime supporters of UW-Green Bay. Shortly before his death, the family contacted the University about yet another milestone contribution to campus and community.


Austin E. Cofrin

Austin E. Cofrin

Harden says David Cofrin’s motivation for this gift was his desire to more fully honor his father, Fort Howard Paper Co. founder Austin E. Cofrin.

David Cofrin’s $5.5 million in philanthropic support will result in the following:


• The naming and dedication of the Austin E. Cofrin School of Business at UW-Green Bay, at a date to be determined. The University’s academic programs in business and accounting date to the school’s founding in the late 1960s and account for the largest share (about 5,500, or roughly one-fifth) of the institution’s 26,000 current alumni.

• Creation of a $4 million permanent endowment to fund academic enhancements.

• Allotment of $1.5 million to an existing named professorship — the Austin E. Cofrin Professorship in Management — in order to elevate it to the status of a fully endowed chair. The Austin E. Cofrin Chair in Business will be the University’s second, joining the John P. Blair Endowed Chair in Communications, established in 2003.

Named professorships provide supplemental resources for additional research and programming by select, senior faculty members. An endowed chair, by contrast, funds creation of a new faculty position, often times involving the hiring of a distinguished scholar in a focused area of importance to the donor and the University. The resulting position expands upon basic academic programs covered through state support, and provides students additional educational and research opportunities.

Harden said it is UW-Green Bay’s intention to formally celebrate, at a later date, the memory of the late Austin E. Cofrin (1883-1980). The elder Cofrin used a commitment to innovation, efficiency and hard work to turn what in 1919 was a small mill on the west shore of the Fox River into a world leader in the paper products industry.

The late Dr. David Cofrin and his wife, Mary Ann Cofrin, have been influential in a range of developments at UW-Green Bay, from the campus arboretum and the support of scholarly activity and special collections in the natural sciences and fine arts, to construction of the acclaimed Weidner Center for the Performing Arts.

The $5.5 million contribution announced this week is the largest single private gift for academics in the history of UW-Green Bay.

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Austin E. Cofrin, ca. 1920s

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Fort Howard Paper Company, ca. 1920s

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Fort Howard Paper Company, ca. 1920s

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Austin E. Cofrin, ca. 1950s

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