They Had a Very Good Year

2009 hasn't been all doom and gloom, as these Madisonians prove

The Open Mind

Patrick Farabaugh

Since launching Our Lives magazine in 2007, Farabaugh has given a clear and candid voice to Madison’s LGBTQA community by sharing individuals’ stories. Recently, he helped start the Out Professional & Executive Network, or O.P.E.N., a group connecting gay professionals. And this spring named the Madison Gay Hockey Association, which he founded, the best LGBT sports league in the world!










The Unsilencer

Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz

In 2008, Ginsberg-Schutz penned the article Seeing Is Believing for Madison Magazine, sharing the stories of seven victims of domestic violence. And then she started the empowering blog Violence UnSilenced, where victims can tell their own experiences in their own words. This summer, Madison’s Domestic Abuse Intervention Services honored her with a Community Service Award and her blog got a nod from the Huffington Post.









The Watchdog

Andy Hall

Early this year, veteran Wisconsin State Journal reporter Hall gave journalism a much-needed confidence boost when he launched the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism witih a $100,000 grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Already the WCIJ’s work has made headlines around the state, producing multimedia news stories in partnership with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television and the UW–Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication and offering it to news outlets for free. Hall’s a pioneer in his field; and he’s training the future.



The Producer

Claire Strader

While she’s been running Troy Community Farm—a five-acre organic farm at the north side Troy Gardens—quietly and passionately since 2001, Strader rocketed to sustainability stardom this year. In January, she won a countrywide online vote to appoint a White House farmer, an unofficial initiative sparked by sustainable food writer-advocate Michael Pollan’s New York Times essay calling for the president to turn five acres of its lawn into a farm. If the city ever has to lose Strader, this might just be the only acceptable way.





The Activist

Eileen Situla

Epilepsy is often misunderstood, and for more than half of the people diagnosed, its origins are unknown. Over the past two years, Eileen Situla organized two Madison fundraisers for CURE, or Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, raising $50,000, which CURE matched. “Because of our fundraisers several families in Madison have come forth now and talked about epilepsy,’” she says.










The Class Act

Jerry Kelly

This golfer’s year wasn’t too shabby either. Like Steve Stricker, he picked up a tournament championship and $2.5 million dollars in paychecks. But Kelly’s biggest accomplishment was giving hope to Wisconsin golf fans that he could somehow save the annual PGA event in Milwaukee from extinction. He needs a corporate sponsor or some creative thinking. But don’t rule out either. His decision to skip the British Open and play in Milwaukee this year was just plain classy. And it’s always fun when he and Stricker play a tournament together. Watching them pull for each other seems pretty Madison-esque to us.







The Honorable

Shirley Abrahamson

For thirty-three years, Chief Justice Abrahamson served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, earning a reputation as a hardworking advocate for judicial independence who applies the law uniquely to each case. When her term came up this month, Wisconsinites elected her to her fourth term—making her the longest-serving justice in the history of the state’s highest court. And with her energy and passion, who knows, perhaps we’ll be seeing “Abrahamson 2019” signs in a couple years.







The Advocate

Karen Dotson

While many nonprofits struggled, the twenty-four-year-old AIDS Network has been thriving in the recession. July’s ACT Ride raised $303,000 versus $295,000 in 2008, and the annual Red Ribbon Affair raised the same amount as the year before. AN opened a food pantry in August and reeled in a grant from the state to open a dental clinic next spring. It’s all to maintain a strong involvement with those living with HIV/AIDS, says executive director Dotson.








The Government Go-Tos

R. Alta Charo, Winslow Sargeant and Molly Jahn

The election of President Barack Obama has indeed brought change—at least to these three Madisonians. Charo, a law and bioethics professor at UW, served as a member of Obama’s transition team and is on leave for the academic year to serve as a senior advisor in the Office of the Commissioner at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. This spring, Obama nominated Sargeant, managing director at the Madison-based venture capital firm Venture Investors, to the post of chief counsel for advocacy at the Small Business Administration. And in October, Jahn, dean of UW’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was appointed undersecretary of research, education and economics in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She will work with the agency to ensure a safe, healthy, abundant and affordable food supply.















The Dream Team

John Wiley and the scientists from the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery

Sitting in a room with John Wiley and the “dream team” of five scientists tapped to head different areas of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery is, to say the least, humbling. Wiley, former chancellor of UW–Madison, is the interim director of WID (and a scientist in his own right) and led the selection process for the five scientists that will work in epigenetics (led by John M. Denu), tissue engineering scaffold research (led by Lih-Sheng Tumg), health technology design (led by Patricia Flatley Brennan), optimization in biology and medicine (led by Michael C. Ferris) and systems biology (led by John Yin). A unique public-private structure to the Institutes means the “sifting and winnowing” of research (like by stem-cell pioneer Jamie Thomson, who will inhabit laboratory space) will forge ahead in one of the nation’s premier laboratories, set to open in December 2010, to begin its mission of improving human health.



The Campus Champs

Dawn Crim and Vince Sweeney

After the John Wiley/Biddy Martin chancellor transition shook out, Crim was appointed by Martin to succeed Lamarr Billups, the well-respected community relations czar who left in 2007 to be Georgetown’s assistant vice president of business policy. Big shoes, but Crim’s a former college basketball player and coach, so she’s used to big shoes—and filling them expertly.

Sweeney, who rose through the ranks of the Richter and Alvarez Athletic Department dynasty, was tapped by Martin this year for another big job—vice chancellor for university relations, a brand-new position. He beat out impressive candidates with more letters after their names because he’s a Madison guy through and through—smart, homegrown, well-connected and a former journalist. Everybody loves Vince. Biddy will, too.



The Whiz Kids

Nelson Auner, Caroline Barry, Danielle Breidung and Seth Sullivan

Quick: what were you doing at eighteen years old? If you said winning a Dane County youth business plan contest then you’re in good company with Barry, a Middleton High School senior who graduated last year. Her idea? A solar-powered water purifier for use in developing countries, which, by the way, included a working prototype. Barry’s entry netted her $2,000 in the Wisconsin Technology Council’s contest.

As a sixth grader Sullivan was the youngest finalist who impressively created a tracker that helps find lost items with ultrasonic technology. Auner, a junior, created an energy efficient fridge using cold outdoor temps to cool stuff indoors and Breidung, a senior, proposed an all-encompassing Argentine travel experience with volunteer and tourism opportunities.

The six-month contest was open to middle school and high school  students in Dane County’s sixteen public school districts as well as students in private schools and home-schooled kids. Looks like these kids are top of the class.



The Wordsmiths

Sarah Busse and Wendy Vardaman

Poetry is seriously in motion—both online and in print—in Madison, thanks to these co-editors of Verse Wisconsin, a new poetry magazine. Picking up where Free Verse magazine left off when it ceased publication this year, the magazine publishes poetry and prose about poetry and seeks to connect Wisconsin’s community of poets. Its website went live in September, and be sure to watch for the debut issue in January.



The Big Thinker

Matt Rothschild

This year The Progressive magazine celebrated its hundredth anniversary of being “a magazine of progress, social, intellectual, institutional,” as Senator Robert M. La Follette Sr. stated when he started the publication in 1909. Yet in the middle of the milestone the magazine faced a cash crunch, with editor Rothschild announcing in August that the magazine would need to raise $90,000 within two weeks to keep afloat. Fortunately, readers and supporters responded quickly—and generously, ultimately raising over $121,000—to keep the magazine’s unique voice loud and strong.





The Progressive Patients

Gary Dobbs and Judy Patterson

Ten and five years ago, respectively, Dobbs and Patterson weren’t having such good years. That was when they were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Fortunately this milestone year has proven much better, thanks to a clinical trial that has helped put their cancers in remission. Led by Brad Kahl of the UW Medical School, UW Lymphoma Service and Paul P. Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center, the trial featured Rituxan, a medication that works with the immune system to eliminate cancer cells. While Dobbs and Patterson continue to see Dr. Kahl several times a year for check-ups, they are now able to focus on their children, grandchildren, travel, reading and all the other fruits of retirement.



The Rising Star

Marc Webb

You might not recognize the name of this West High grad yet, but you’ve almost certainly heard of his latest film. (500) Days of Summer is a unique and comic love story—but not a romantic comedy—about a woman who doesn’t believe in true love and the man who falls for her. The movie was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival in January, at the Wisconsin Film Festival in April and theaters everywhere this summer, giving Webb status as the next big thing in Hollywood. Previously a music-video director, Webb told Madison Magazine last year that he attributes much of his success to his high school theater program. “It is really about confidence, the idea that anything is possible,” he says. “That it is difficult and risk is involved when pursuing the performing arts, yet it is okay to be inspired by that stuff.”



The Money Men

Alan Fish and Gary Wolter

Protecting and creating jobs has been a major challenge of 2009, and perhaps no one knows this better than Fish and Wolter. In January, Gov. Jim Doyle created the Wisconsin Office of Recovery and Reinvestment to move federal stimulus funds to create jobs in the state. He appointed Wolter, president, chairman and CEO of Madison Gas and Electric, to head the office through May, and also tapped Fish, UW–Madison associate vice chancellor of facilities, planning and management, to help the efforts.

It's not that these two didn't have enough to do in their day jobs. Between the dynamic energy debate and an award-winning campus development scene you'd be hard pressed to find two more demanding positions in the city. But both heeded the Governor's call to apply their formidable skills to the benefit of the entire state. Their contributions justified that trust and sacrifice.












The Equalizer

Rep. Mark Pocan

Health care’s been a huge to-do this year and Rep. Mark Pocan was instrumental in crafting and passing domestic partnership provisions in the ’09–’11 budget, many of which have to do with human health and well-being. Wisconsin is the first Midwest state to provide more than forty critical legal protections for same-sex couples like estate inheritance, hospital visitation and family leave for a sick or dying loved one. Pocan also plans to register with his partner, whom he married in Canada in 2006.







The Faithful

Andy Russell

In May the Roman Catholic Diocese told Andy Russell, director of the Catholic Multicultural Center, that in two days the center would close. Less than a week later, the Our Lady Queen of Peace parish spearheaded a community fundraising effort to reopen the center, which catered to the city’s south side. In August, Russell and the center virtually picked up where they left off: Nearly every program is back up and running and meal service is actually expanding this month to five days per week.





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