Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Is Wisconsin Short-Changed By Its Top Foundation?

By - Jul 12th, 2001 04:19 pm

With the resignation of Michael Joyce, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is looking for a new president. That could ultimately have a huge impact on how much money goes to local causes.

The changes meant that Wisconsin gets $5 million less from the foundation.

Under Joyce’s leadership, the foundation has become much less centered on Wisconsin. In the foundation’s first three years, 50 percent of its grants went to state organizations, particularly those from Milwaukee. But Joyce gradually moved the foundation toward more national giving, with an emphasis on conservative policy makers. As a result, the percent of grants going to Wisconsin dropped to about 37 percent, and has remained at that level since.

That 13% difference is very big, when you’re a $700 million foundation (the 68th largest in the nation) giving away about $40 million a year. That means that Wisconsin gets about $15 million a year, rather than the $20 million it might get if 50% of the money were still going to local causes.There is no doubt that the foundation has had a major impact on Milwaukee. “This was a city that did not have much of a tradition of patronage,” Joyce says. “The culture discouraged flagrant acts of lavish spending. That has changed. The impact we had and [philanthropist] Jane Pettithad is really quite extraordinary.”

Joyce may be overstating the point. But there is no doubt the foundation has been a force for local philanthropy, and that the city would be hurt if its commitment to local giving declined further. But board president Allen Taylor, a retired attorney with Foley and Lardner, says flatly “there’ll be no change in that [the percentage of funding going to Wisconsin]. This is a Wisconsin institution. It’s really important that that continue.”

But Taylor concedes he can’t control what happens after he leaves the board. And whoever replaces Joyce as president could have different priorities. When Joyce arrived in 1986, the fledgling Bradley foundation (created from the sale of the Allen Bradley Co.) had a board of directors who were all from Milwaukee. Today, only five of ten members are from Milwaukee, with one from Madison, and the foundation clearly has a more national outlook.

Taylor says the board is undertaking a national search to find a new president, but adds, “any president must agree to move to this city with his family and live here. We’re a Milwaukee foundation. That will not change.”

One of the candidates for the job is Dan Schmidt, the foundation’s long-time vice president, who was appointed acting CEO. Schmidt is from Wauwatosa. “He was one of the first local program officers the foundation hired,” says Kelly Ambrose, spokesperson for the foundation.

When will a new president be selected? “There’s no hurry on the part of the board.”

Schmidt, who was listed with a salary of $177,475 on the last tax filing by the foundation, could see his salary rise significantly if he was promoted. Joyce’s salary was $414,600.

The board could take as long as six months to find a new leader, Tayor says. “I’m pleased to report there’s no hurry on the part of the board,” Ambrose says. “We don’t even have a timetable.”

Civic leaders would be well advised to watch for this decision, and to let local board members know how important it is that the foundation continue or increase its commitment to Milwaukee. As Joyce’s tenure proved, even small changes by the new director can have an impact measured in the millions.

Short Takes

He ain’t fancy, but County Executive Tom Ament just keeps going on. Many count Mayor John Norquist out for the next election, but Ament looks like he could quietly continue forever. His recent fundraiser at the downtown Transit Center on June 26th, drew about 250 people, and brought in about $20,000, according to Ament’s fundraiser Dave O’Neill. In attendance were County Board Chair Karen Ordinans, Supervisors Linda Ryan, Roger Quindel, Lori Lutzka and Robert Krug and state Sen. Kevin Shibilski (D-Stevens Point), who is running for Lt. Governor, and Judge Louis Butler, who is running for circuit court.

Nancy the Neighbor: Ever the super-salesman, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee chancellor Nancy Zimpher sends out a regular newsletter to make nice with East Side residents, who have often been annoyed by noise from students. The newsletter even offers free parking on campus for residents of this car-clogged neighborhood at selected times. Zimpher also seems to have done some horse trading to help get more state money for UWM, as she quickly found a place for Linda Stewart at the downtown extension office in the Plankinton Building. This provided a nice soft landing for Stewart after she retired as welfare czar (or would that be czarina?) for former governor Tommy Thompson. Stewart runs the newly created Center for Workforce Development. She can’t be that busy: she answered her own phone when I called.

Staff members in the state Department of Public Instruction are grumbling because they’ve been muzzled. All press inquiries now must go through Burmaster’s press handler John Kraus…The toney University Club, where the city’s movers and shakers gather for stuffy power lunches, has made a revolutionary change: coat and tie are no longer required… Greater Milwaukee Committee executive director Bob Milbourne has had some sleepless nights since last fall. Milbourne, in his mid-50s, became a father for the first time and got a double dose of duty: twin girls.

One reader complains the Great Circus Parade has no reserved places for those with wheel chairs, unless you pay $25 for special bleacher seats. Parade spokesperson Ann VanCamp says “we don’t really have special seating for anyone,” but adds that if there are enough complaints the parade might consider a change next year.

The state supreme court’s decision to allow a judge to bar a deadbeat dad with nine kids from fathering any more children was astonishing on many counts. The decision had an odd mix of liberals and conservative on both sides of the issue, but the gender gap was quite striking: all the men upheld this constrainment of the man’s right to procreate. All three women judges objected to the decision, and were more forgiving of the sexually active man. Strange sexual politics, that.

Is there a mystery behind Michael Joyce’s decision to retire from the Bradley Foundation? One close observer says Joyce seemed physically frail and less sharp mentally toward the end of his reign. Joyce is heavy smoker, but told me he was in great health. “I think there’s still story to be told about why he left,” says the source. When I asked Bradley Board president Allen Taylor about Joyce’s health, he said this: “I don’t know. I don’t know what to say.”

Parting Quip: Ald. Tom Nardelli on the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s recommendation that the Bradley Center and Wisconsin Center work together to create some kind of merger. “It was almost like a Rodney King thing. Can’t we all get along?”

This article was originally published by Milwaukee World.

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