Philanthropist and friend to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Mary Ann Cofrin passed away this week. Mary Ann and her late husband, Dr. David Cofrin (David A. Cofrin Library), displayed an extraordinary spirit of philanthropy and were magnificent friends to the University. Their relationship to UW-Green Bay dates back to a close friendship with UW-Green Bay’s Founding Chancellor, Edward Weidner. The couple inspired countless others to philanthropically support Green Bay’s “new University.”
Dr. Cofrin, who passed away in 2009, was the son of Austin E. Cofrin, founder of Fort Howard Paper Company, and namesake of UW-Green Bay’s Austin E. Cofrin School of Business.
Through the years, the family made a number of visionary gifts to the University. Among them:
-A $6 million gift for what would be The Weidner Center for the Performing Arts. The Cofrin’s declined naming rights to honor their friend Edward Weidner.
-A 4.5 million gift to create the Grand Foyer of The Weidner Center, to relieve patron congestion because the venue frequently sold out performances for all 2,020 seats
-A $5.5 million gift to establish the Cofrin School of Business Endowed Chair.
The University named a special building in honor of Mary Ann in September of 2001. At the time, Mary Ann Cofrin Hall was considered one of the “greenest” buildings ever built with state funds, combining the best in sustainability and energy-generating technology. It is the destination for the Richter Museum of Natural History, the Herbarium, and is the headquarters for the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity.
At a dinner the evening before the dedication of Mary Ann Cofrin Hall in September of 2001, then Chancellor Bruce Shepard said he was “absolutely awed by this spectacular new building and the magnitude of all this University has accomplished with your (David and Mary Ann) help. (You) have provided this university an exceptional margin of excellence in facilities, performing arts, and academic endeavors.”
Chancellor Weidner saluted his special relationship with the couple on that occasion as well, admiring their personal relationship with an observation that “David A. Cofrin Library and Mary Ann Cofrin Hall stand side-by-side on this campus, just as the couple did on their first blind date in New York City” (now) more than 70 years ago.
The planned replacement of David A. Cofrin Library with a Technology and Education Center will continue to carry on the Cofrin name.
Their philanthropy continues on through the 1923 Fund which is focused primarily on biodiversity and the natural environment.