Badger Pride

UW alumni spread the Wisconsin Idea around the world

This month’s cover is a nice reminder of the culinary talent we’ve got in our foodie-friendly city. Chefs are rock stars these days, and I always get a little kick that one of the biggest and brightest is an alum of UW–Madison: Charlie Trotter, class of ’82. (Full, if weird, disclosure: I too am Class of ’82. But that’s a story for another day.)

I admit there are times when I take some pride in having attended the same college as a big-time journalist, a respected CEO or a successful Hollywood producer (or two). And that’s nothing compared to the pride I feel in having a degree from a university that is recognized for its number of Peace Corps volunteers, Nobel Prize winners, philanthropists, artists, poets and peace makers. If the old adage of being known by the company one keeps has any validity, well, UW grads are in good company. So are University of Virginia grads by the way (Brennan Nardi). So are Edgewood College grads.

That common bond and shared experience becomes part of who we are. It is, for the most part, kinda cool. But there is also a deeper and more tangible consequence of being an alumnus of a school like UW–Madison, and that’s the commitment to supporting the institution and its mission, of being an ambassador of a great school, of promoting the contributions of fellow alumni and working collaboratively to make a difference in the world. The Wisconsin Alumni Association exists pretty much to do just that, and this year it is celebrating 150 years of promoting the welfare of the University of Wisconsin. Every great school needs a great alumni association and, frankly, not every school has one. UW’s is one of the best.

The most obvious displays of this organization and its energy and spirit are sporting events around the country where every opponent’s stadium, arena or field has its own disproportionately large crowd of red-clad Badger fans doing their traditional Badger thing. You also find it in at least one bar in every major city from New York to Las Vegas, where UW alums gather on game day to cheer on their team. But more and more you also find it in gatherings in Beijing, Bangalore or Tokyo where there are now sufficient numbers of UW grads to suggest the need for a University Book Store branch to keep everyone in Bucky gear.

Being a UW alumnus is now being part of a worldwide association of folks who know the Wisconsin Idea expanded beyond America’s Dairyland a long time ago. And there’s tremendous power—and opportunity—in that. There are roughly 380,000 UW–Madison alumni in the world today, and more and more sifting and winnowing is being done in places like Asia in exciting new relationships with limitless applications for the research, science and quest for knowledge that makes UW–Madison one of the great institutions of higher learning in the world.

That’s an economic engine on a global scale. Not every university can be one. UW must. This magazine is a big Paula Bonner fan, and we’re not shy about giving her tons of credit for making the WAA the potent partner of the UW it is today. But she’s had help, a great team and of course 380,000 friends.

Not all are likely to make their way to the Red Tie Gala on October 14 to celebrate WAA’s 150th anniversary. But those who do will have a ball. There’s a great party planned at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery with terrific food, music, pictures and friends and fellow alumni. And you’ll hear exciting news about the Great People Scholarship fund. Visit for more details, to purchase tickets and to learn more about the contributions of the Wisconsin Alumni Association. Makes one proud to be a Badger.

Neil P. Heinen is editorial director of Madison Magazine. Contact him at

Find more For the Record columns here.

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