Madison, Wisconsin,
11:16 AM

University of Wisconsin-Madison and American Family Insurance announce Distinguished Faculty Chair


The UW–Madison La Follette School of Public Affairs and American Family Insurance announced the establishment of the Jack Salzwedel Distinguished Faculty Chair in Business and Regulation. 

The UW–Madison La Follette School of Public Affairs and American Family Insurance announced the establishment of the Jack Salzwedel Distinguished Faculty Chair in Business and Regulation. This new endowed chair, the first of its kind at the La Follette School, was made possible by a generous $3 million donation from American Family Insurance. It will honor former American Family Insurance Chair and CEO Jack Salzwedel’s remarkable leadership and career, invaluable support for the La Follette School, reputation for strategic and innovative thinking, and commitment to the public good. The transformative gift was presented at an event February 27 at the Pyle Center in Madison (see photos from event at top).

Jack Salzwedel“I’m truly honored by this recognition and to have my name associated not only with this great university, but the La Follette School of Public Affairs,” said Jack Salzwedel. “I’m very familiar with the important work they’re doing and so grateful to American Family Insurance for this gift that will help continue to take these efforts forward. More students will have the opportunity to be educated in public policy issues and help develop innovative solutions that will benefit all of society.”

American Family Insurance has a long history of supporting cutting-edge research, and Salzwedel, who retired as chair of the board for American Family Insurance in December 2023, has acted as a goodwill ambassador and supporter of the La Follette School, providing important guidance to the school as a member of its Board of Visitors. “Jack has been a champion for the La Follette School and an irreplaceable confidant and mentor for me,” says La Follette School Director Susan Webb Yackee.Bill Westrate

“During Jack’s extraordinary career with American Family, he has been committed not only to the success of our company and our customer-focused mission, but to furthering American Family’s purpose by investing in communities through programs and initiatives that have extended the reach of positive impact for all,” said Bill Westrate, American Family chair and CEO. “Combined with our long and impactful partnership with UWMadison, it’s fitting that we honor Jack’s incredible legacy, vision, and service through the establishment of this distinguished chair at the La Follette School of Public Affairs, whose mission includes inspiring and training future leaders with a commitment to the public good.”

Distinguished faculty chairs are the most prestigious honor that a faculty member can receive and are critical to recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty. Such funding allows chaired professors to launch new areas of research and to hire undergraduate or graduate research assistants. Thus, endowed chairs often create additional opportunities for students to have the chance to learn from world-class scholars and researchers.

This gift – the second largest in the La Follette School’s 40-year history – will allow the school’s faculty to expand the reach of their groundbreaking research in important policy areas, informing critical public policy and governance debates. It provides precious resources to focus on the intersection of the private and public sectors, which will enrich La Follette’s portfolio of expertise and the education the school provides to its students. La Follette School Interim Director Greg Nemet will lead the chair selection process later this spring, and a current tenured professor will be named the first Jack Salzwedel Distinguished Faculty Chair in Business and Regulation in January 2025.

With demand for public policy education at an all-time high, the La Follette School has expanded its educational offerings in recent years, adding undergraduate certificates in public policy and health policy. The number of students enrolled in La Follette programs has increased five-fold in just the last five years, and the school is hiring five new faculty members in 2024. The school plans to introduce a new undergraduate major in public policy to address this growing demand. This investment from American Family Insurance will give critical support to La Follette’s growing faculty and enable the school to equip more future policy leaders with the skills they need to discover, critically examine, and preserve knowledge that will benefit our future society.

Jennifer Mnookin“Jack Salzwedel is an extraordinary leader whose transformative impact on the university, the community, and the entire state of Wisconsin grows from a lifetime of commitment to innovating for the public good,” said UWMadison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin. “I count myself very fortunate to call him a friend and a trusted advisor. I am tremendously happy that American Family’s support of him and this great university provides this opportunity to honor him with a distinguished faculty chair that will focus on two things I know he, they, and we all care deeply about — creating better public policy and developing new generations of leaders. Thank you, Jack, and thank you to American Family for supporting our renowned La Follette School in this truly meaningful way.”

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UW-Madison media contact:
Lauren Weitkamp 

About the American Family Insurance Group
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, American Family Insurance has been serving customers since 1927. We inspire, protect and restore dreams through our insurance products, exceptional service from our agency owners and employees, community investment and creative partnerships to address societal challenges. We act on our belief in diversity and inclusion by constantly evolving to meet customer needs and preferences. American Family Insurance group is the nation’s 12th-largest property/casualty insurance group, ranking No. 301 on the Fortune 500 list. The group sells American Family-brand products, primarily through exclusive agency owners in 19 states. The American Family Insurance Group also includes CONNECT, powered by American Family Insurance, The General, Homesite and Main Street America Insurance. Across these companies the group has nearly 13,000 employees nationwide.

About the La Follette School of Public Affairs   
The Robert M. LaFollette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is a leading academic institution with a 40-year history of improving the design, implementation, and evaluation of public policy and the practice of governance. The school was built on the foundation of the UW–Madison Center for the Study of Public Policy and Administration, which was established in 1967 under the Department of Political Science. In 1983, the Wisconsin Legislature formally separated the center from the Department of Political Science. The school officially opened in 1984, now named after Robert M. La Follette, the former Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator who is regarded as one of the most celebrated figures in the state’s history. Today, the La Follette School offers domestic and international master’s degrees in public affairs as well as certificates for undergraduate students. La Follette School faculty, alumni, students, and staff extend the practice of the Wisconsin Idea across the state and around the world through research and outreach that inspires evidence-based policymaking, impacts society’s pressing problems, and advances the public good.