The 25 Most Influential People in Greater Madison
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Diane Endres Ballweg: Benefactor
Porchlight, the Safe House housing project, the Madison Children’s Museum … it’s hard for Diane Endres Ballweg to turn down a worthy cause. As president of the Endres Manufacturing Co. Foundation, perhaps her most cherished role, Endres Ballweg helps direct $75,000 or more to nonprofits each year. The foundation has now surpassed the $1 million mark in giving.
A recent beneficiary of her personal generosity is The Stream, Edgewood College’s new visual and theater arts center. As a lead donor to a facility that became In Business magazine’s 2013 “Project of the Year,” Endres Ballweg was simply giving back to a cherished place. She earned a degree in special education from Edgewood College in 1975 and a master’s degree in education administration from Edgewood in 2007.
Edgewood might be a special place for Endres Ballweg, but the arts are a special passion. An accomplished musician — piano, flute, and guitar — and the proud owner of a music education degree from
UW-Madison, she sits on the National Committee of the Performing Arts in support of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.On occasion, friends and acquaintances reprimand Endres Ballweg for her inability to say no, but she’s driven by the need to become a person of value, not simply a person of means. Saying yes, she notes, has always opened new doors.
Kevin Conroy: Cancer Fighter
Exact Sciences CEO Kevin Conroy is already an IB Executive Hall of Famer, but events of the past year could bring him notoriety beyond Dane County’s borders. When a Food and Drug Administration panel unanimously approved the company’s non-invasive, stool-based colorectal cancer test known as Cologuard, it was put on track toward potential market approval.
Conroy believes a successful launch of Cologuard could have the same impact on the early detection of colorectal cancer that the Pap smear has had on the early detection of cervical cancer. In the United States, both the incidence rates and death rates of cervical cancer have been dramatically reduced over the past several decades.
After a recent study showed that Cologuard detected 92.3% of colorectal cancer in average-risk patients and 42% of advanced precancerous lesions, The New England Journal of Medicine published an online report claiming the test was found to detect early-stage colorectal cancer better than other non-invasive approaches.
Conroy’s leadership extends beyond company walls. He was active in supporting the state’s new fund-of-funds venture capital program because of a strange dichotomy: Wisconsin is near the top in terms of new idea formation and fundamental research, but it’s near the bottom in translating those ideas into new company formation. The hoped-for infusion of private capital should improve the state’s rate of technology transfer.
Robert Dunn: Visionary
The primary reason Robert Dunn was deemed one of Madison’s most influential is unfolding on the shores of Lake Mendota. By the time the renovated Edgewater Hotel is ready for its “soft opening” next month, the hassle he experienced in getting this visionary project approved will have largely faded, but its contributions as a character-defining structure will be just beginning.
The character he’s trying to define is Madison’s status as a destination. The $100 million development will not only add high-end hotel space, it will also be the site of special events, occasions, and community happenings. “We set a vision for the project very early on, and I had the highest of high expectations,” Dunn said. “As I’ve watched the project come together and as I’m able to take people through there, while it’s not done yet, you can understand all the moving parts now. Generally, from my own perspective and that of others that are beginning to see what we are going to have there, it’s going to be everything I hoped for and more.”
The same can be said for Dunn’s national leadership with Hammes Co. Sports Development, his ability to maximize the economic development potential of new stadium projects (one case in point is Lambeau Field), and his contributions to the Wisconsin Alumni Association, the Clean Lakes Alliance, and Aaron’s House, a supportive living environment for young men ages 18-26 who are recovering from chemical dependency.
Judith Faulkner: Self-Made Maverick
Judith Faulkner is responsible for a lot of things, starting with Epic, an electronic medical records company that in 20 years went from a small startup venture to Dane County’s largest employer, 6,800 workers strong and counting.
With all those employees, many of them young up-and-comers, she’s also largely responsible for a multifamily building boom in Madison.
She’s also a self-made woman with a list of customers that includes medical luminaries like Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Health System, and Johns Hopkins, all of which use her software products to enable clinical or business transformation.
By the time Epic is through installing digital medical records at U.S. hospitals, almost half of the American population will have its medical data stored on the company’s record systems. Not bad, considering its chief competitors — Cerner, McKesson, and GE Healthcare — aren’t exactly slouches themselves.
The epic story of Epic is primarily due to Faulkner, who might be the most private, media-shy person on Forbes’ billionaires list. She’d much rather engage in business and software development than talk about herself, but the remarkable success of her company does the talking for her.
Jerry Frautschi: Community Builder
Count the soon-to-be unveiled Edgewater renovation among the many ways Jerry Frautschi has come to Madison’s rescue. The new Edgewater, which is likely to become a local landmark, was once viewed as completely inappropriate for the Mansion Hill Neighborhood, but it would not have been possible without philanthropists like Frautschi and Pleasant Rowland, who led a group of investors that saved the controversial project.
Thanks to this group, Developer Robert Dunn did not need public money to proceed with the $100 million renovation, which will be unveiled in late August. They helped close a $16 million gap, and they were willing to take a lower rate of return, if necessary.
The Frautschis, who have also championed an $11.6 million redevelopment of the 100 block of State Street, probably could have their influence measured each year by the hundreds of arts events that unfold at the Overture Center. They donated $205 million to build the arts facility, but that was only the beginning of their philanthropic power.
Among other worthy projects, Frautschi also pledged $500,000 to the Madison Central Library fundraising campaign. As is the case with Pleasant, literacy is a prime beneficiary of their generosity.
Otto Gebhardt: Star Developer
The Constellation is more than a stunningly attractive building that interacts well with its neighborhood, it’s an economic development driver that’s rejuvenating a venerable Madison street. That street happens to be East Washingon Avenue, and the efforts of Otto Gebhardt and others to redevelop vacant properties have sparked a renaissance.
Gebhardt, owner of Gebhardt Development, is not only leading the way in making “East Wash” more vibrant again, he’s not quite done. Across from the 220-unit Constellation, in the 800 block of East Washington, Gebhardt is developing another mixed-use project that will include a Festival Foods grocery and more residential units.
It’s a classic case of choosing “urban infill” over suburban sprawl. Over the next few years, we’ll see additional developments like the Archipelago Village, a new technology campus developed by the Mullins Group, and the Gorman Co.’s Union Corners, all designed to transform what was an underutilized industrial corridor into an entrepreneurial and employment hub.
Thanks to Gebhardt, that transformation has gained considerable momentum. The Constellation quickly filled with tenants, and its commercial occupants, including the Madison office of Google, are welcome additions to the neighborhood.