UW-Madison business school dean Michael Knetter — who brought together a group of donors to create the largest donation the UW has received — will become president and chief executive officer of the UW Foundation.
Knetter, who also serves as vice chancellor for advancement at UW-Madison, will lead the private, nonprofit corporation, with $2.5 billion in assets, starting Oct. 16. He will succeed Andrew “Sandy” Wilcox, who has headed the UW Foundation for 22 years and will retire in December.
Under Wilcox’s guidance, the UW Foundation’s assets under management have grown from $190 million to $2.5 billion and more than $2 billion has been distributed for UW projects.
“Private giving will continue to be more important to the university’s future, and it’s something that has been a vital ingredient to our success these past eight years at the business school,” Knetter said. “It’s part of my work as dean that I’ve probably found most fulfilling.”
Knetter, 50, is drawing kudos from the community and UW-Madison officials.
“We are fortunate to have someone with Mike’s experience, talent and energy as the next president of the UW Foundation,” UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin said in a written statement. “He has been an innovative leader, dedicated to enhancing the quality of the school and the university as a whole. I look forward to working with him in his new role.”
Most visibly, Knetter lined up an $85 million gift to the school of business by a group of alumni in 2007. He also spurred the expansion of Grainger Hall, where the business school is housed.
“Mike has really been instrumental in bringing energy to the school,” said vice dean Joan Schmit. “He elevated the full-time MBA (master’s degree in business administration) in incredible ways.”
By focusing on specialized career tracks, including applied security analysis, arts administration and market research, Knetter drew national attention to UW-Madison’s program, Schmit said. “Other campuses are trying to follow our model,” she said.
Schmit said Knetter also increased opportunities for working people to get a business education through the enterprise MBA program.
Knetter is “tremendously exciting ... He is extremely smart and energetic,” said Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
Knetter’s salary as dean in the 2009-2010 academic year was nearly $328,000, according to UW budget information available online. No salary was released for his new job but most recent figures show total compensation of $408,000 in 2008.
A Rhinelander native, Knetter majored in economics and mathematics at UW-Eau Claire and earned a doctorate in economics from Stanford University. He was associate dean of the MBA program at the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth college. Knetter also was a senior staff economist for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers for presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Choosing Knetter is “a bold example of very forward thinking,” said Richard Leazer, former WARF managing director. “He brings educational passion to the task for financing the future of the university but also an economist’s marvelous ability to think of alternatives which must be considered and the innovations that must be explored. And he has the energy and personality to make it look easy.”
Knetter is “a great fit” for the foundation, said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. “Not only does he understand the needs of the university, but he’s well known and respected among business and financial leaders in Wisconsin, the nation and beyond.”
“He knows the business community; he knows fundraising,” added David J. Ward, president of NorthStar Economics, Madison. “The bad news is that we are going to have to find a new business school dean.”
An international search will be conducted; meanwhile, Schmit will serve as interim dean.