John & Tashia Morgridge

The power of love and philanthropy

Climbing Bascom Hill on one fall day in 1951, Tashia Frankfurth had a startling encounter.

“Imagine my surprise when, walking toward Bascom Hall on the first day of classes, a familiar arm encircled my waist,” she recalled. “It was that easy. John found a place to stay and a job waiting tables and enrolled at Wisconsin. Education and love flourished.”

John Morgridge had left Wauwatosa, abandoning plans to attend school in Milwaukee and came to Madison to be near his high-school sweetheart. More than 65 years later, his decision and the Morgridges’ deep educational commitment continue to benefit UW-Madison and Wisconsin.

John graduated in 1955 with a business degree, and Tashia with an education degree.

Tashia taught school as John earned a master’s degree at Stanford. From there, John worked for Stratus Computer and Honeywell Information Systems before serving as president and COO of GRiD Systems.

In 1988, John became CEO of Cisco Systems, then a tiny four-year-old company with 34 employees. It went public in 1990, and the networking firm became a tech giant.

From The Park

​When one considers great research institutes, one thinks of institutes on either coast. In the future, we want them to think of the University of Wisconsin.

Source: Used by permission of copyright holder.

That success enables the Morgridges to be a philanthropic powerhouse. “The more personally involved we have become with the causes we support, the more effective we seem to be,” the pair once wrote.

“It is our need and responsibility to help our fellow man,” John said.

The Morgridges have made many transformative gifts to UW-Madison. They made possible the Morgridge Center for Public Service, gave $50 million for the Morgridge Institute for Research, $100 million for faculty retention and $34 million for renovation of the education school.

They also provided a $175 million endowment for the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars, which provides grants to low-income students to attend Wisconsin’s public colleges.

The Morgridges are among a group of the world’s wealthiest individuals who have joined The Giving Pledge to commit to give a majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

“We’re not leaving it to someone else to give away. We’re going to do it,” John said. “I never did it for money, per se. It was the thrill of the experience.”