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Curriculum and Instruction News

WARF Board endows Distinguished Faculty Chair to honor Gulbrandsens

June 28, 2016
by Jeanan Yasiri Moe, WARF Director of Strategic Communications

Carl E. Gulbrandsen, whose tenure leading the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) witnessed landmark scientific discoveries and record-setting investment in UW–Madison, steps away June 30, 2016, from the investment and technology organization he helped craft into one of the nation's most respected.

Gulbrandsen joined WARF in 1997 and has led the nonprofit patent and licensing body since becoming Managing Director in 2000.

"In recognition of the career-long commitment that both Carl and his wife Mary have made to educational interests, the WARF Board is delighted to endow the Mary and Carl Gulbrandsen Distinguished Chair in Early Childhood Education,” Peter Tong, Chair of the WARF Board of Trustees, announced Tuesday.

The chair will be part of a new center focused on early childhood education and practice. The new center will be situated within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research in UW-Madison’s School of Education. School of Education Dean Diana Hess said a national search for the chair will ensue in the fall 2016.

Carl and Mary Gulbrandsen
The WARF Board announced a new distinguished faculty
chair in early childhood education to honor Carl and Mary
Gulbrandsen.
"The School of Education has long been involved in groundbreaking research to improve early childhood education and this support will allow us to bolster these important efforts," says Hess. "We are grateful to the WARF Board because their creation of the Mary and Carl Gulbrandsen Distinguished Chair in Early Childhood Education will help ensure UW–Madison remains a leader in this field."

"Mary and I are humbled by this honor," says Carl Gulbrandsen. "We are particularly delighted that our collective passion for advancing education across the age spectrum will continue through this gift. We both feel so strongly that developing a strong educational foundation for youth benefits our entire community."

Mary Gulbrandsen served in senior administrator positions for over 25 years within the Madison Metropolitan School District and today serves as Executive Director of the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars. Mary also is a current member of the UW–Madison School of Education's Board of Visitors.

Over the 16 years Carl Gulbrandsen led WARF, the organization shaped stem cell policy, brought new cancer therapies to market, forwarded faster computer circuitry, funded crop studies and advanced countless technologies touching untold lives.

Since 2000, WARF's investment portfolio has more than doubled to $2.68 billion and enabled WARF to gift $895 million to the university – funding that nurtures risk-based research, recruits and retains star faculty, advances graduate education and continues to make UW–Madison a leading research institution.

In recent years, in the wake of recession and growing reluctance on the part of established companies to take risks on young technologies, WARF has accepted a stronger role in fostering entrepreneurialism. Under Gulbrandsen's leadership WARF launched a host of new initiatives to spark startup activity on and beyond campus.

Initiatives include 4490 Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund created with the State of Wisconsin Investment Board. Another, Discovery to Product (D2P), provides mentorship to enterprising faculty, staff and students. The WARF Accelerator Program, also launched under Gulbrandsen, empowers inventors with the funding and expertise to leverage industry.

Gulbrandsen's vision changed the face of campus. As the head of WARF he led development of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery including the Morgridge Institute for Research, a private biomedical research organization working to solve major challenges to human health.

Gulbrandsen steered WARF through the excitement, uncertainty and debate that attended the human embryonic stem cell breakthroughs of Dr. James Thomson. To ensure that scientists in Madison and around the globe have access to these revolutionary tools, WARF founded the nonprofit WiCell Research Institute – a renowned stem cell 'bank' that stores, tests and distributes cell lines to more than three hundred labs worldwide.

Through the years he also guided WARF through several successful patent infringement cases, defending WARF patents arising from UW research.

During Gulbrandsen's tenure, in 2005, WARF received the National Medal of Technology from President George W. Bush. This is the highest honor the President can bestow on an organization making significant contributions to technological development. Additionally, WARF received from Standard & Poor's a Triple A rating in recognition of the professionalism of its staff and management of resources. In 2016 he was honored in receiving the In Business "Lifetime Achievement Award."

Says Peter Tong: "Carl is a top chief executive. His accomplishments over his 20 years at WARF have been transformational for WARF and the UW–Madison. He has put a superb team in place that helped make WARF one of the top technology transfer organizations in the world and a leading innovator in investment management."

Gulbrandsen is succeeded by Erik Iverson as Managing Director starting July 1. Iverson recently led business and operations for the Infectious Disease Research Institute, a global health research and product development organization that develops vaccines and vaccine-related technologies. Prior, Iverson served as associate general counsel at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and played a leading role in building its global health program and the foundation's program that makes equity and debt investments in startup biotech companies.

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