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$20 million gift from Zilber family announced by Gina Stilp to UW Milwaukee College of Public Health
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$20 million gift from Zilber family announced by Gina Stilp to UW Milwaukee College of Public Health

UW-Milwaukee’s Zilber College of Public Health received a major boost recently.

The Zilber Family Foundation announced a $20 million gift designed to further the work of the college by supporting both faculty and student achievement.

“Zilber Family Foundation is honored to continue Joe and Vera Zilber’s legacy with a donation of the largest single gift in the history of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – and one of the largest gifts given to a school of public health across the country,” said foundation executive director Gina Stilp in a press release. “The $20 million commitment will continue to promote public health, prevent disease and advance health equity in Milwaukee for years to come.”

The gift will create two endowments: the Zilber Faculty Excellence Fund and the Vera Zilber Student Program Fund.

“The Zilber Family Foundation’s landmark gift is a vote of confidence in UWM and the college’s future. It reinforces our pillars of faculty excellence, top-tier research, student access and achievement,” said Chancellor Mark Mone. “This extraordinary gift significantly enhances our ability to recruit and retain top faculty members while accelerating and supporting the students who will become our nation’s public health leaders.”

The college, 1240 N. 10th St., was started with a $10 million gift in 2007 from Joseph Zilber. It’s located off-campus in a redeveloped building in The Brewery District, a capstone redevelopment project for the late Zilber’s decades-long real estate career.

“The $20 million investment in the College of Public Health is a new phase in a longstanding partnership built on a shared belief in access to opportunity through education and the importance of health equity,” said Joan Nesbitt, vice chancellor for university advancement. “With this investment, the Zilber Family Foundation is making a bold statement about the power of public-private partnerships to transform communities. The gift’s impact will reach far beyond Milwaukee, and it positions UWM as a leader in philanthropic initiatives that transform lives.”

It was originally known as the Zilber School of Public Health before a name change this year. The college is currently led by interim dean Amy Harley.

The school is the only nationally-accredited college of public health in Wisconsin. It offers three bachelor’s programs, six master of public health concentrations, three master of science degree programs and five doctoral programs. A fact sheet from UWM says it has raised $20.5 million in external research funding since 2010 and graduated 320 students. It began last year with 201 students and currently has 37 faculty members. The first students were enrolled in 2009.

In addition to scholarships, the funding will be used to expand the school’s research. Harley, in a UWM announcement, cited a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-backed research project that will examine whether governments, like Milwaukee County, that declared racism a public health threat take related policy actions.

Joseph and Vera in can be seen standing together in a sculpture in Zilber Park, located across N. 10th Street from the college. Their namesake foundation has issued grants to several Milwaukee organizations and created the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative.

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