Philanthropist Jerome Chazen, the namesake of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chazen art museum, passed away this past Sunday at the age of 94.
Chazen attended UW-Madison where he graduated in 1948 before receiving his MBA from Columbia Business School in 1950. Chazen went on to lead a successful business career becoming one of four founding partners of Liz Claiborne Inc., a woman’s fashion company, and later serving as founder and chairman of Chazen Capital Partners.
Beginning in the 1980s, Chazen and his wife, Simona Chazen, were active in developing the Elvehjem Museum of Art and served on the facility’s alumni board for 20 years with Simona Chazen joining the museum’s advisory council in 1997.
The Chazens made several contributions towards developing the UW art museum including a $20 million donation in 2005, allowing for the facilities expansion in 2011. Due to the couple’s considerable contributions to the Chazen art museum, previously known as the Elvehjem, the facility was re-named in honor of Chazen upon its completion.
In addition to financial contributions, the Chazen family also donated several pieces of art to the museum, including Harvey Littleton’s “Red Squared Descending Form” which was gifted by the couple in 2000.
UW-Madison Chancellor Rebbeca Blank commented on Chazen’s death, recalling his commitment towards furthering art education at his alma mater.
“Jerry was deeply devoted to the arts and to education,” Blank said. “His commitment to UW-Madison will live on in the Chazen Museum of Art and the many lives he touched.
Museum director Amy Gilman echoed Blank’s sentiments, recalling Chazen as an individual committed to furthering education on the UW-Madison campus.
“I am deeply saddened by the news of Jerry Chazen’s passing,” Gilman said. “Since my arrival at the Chazen in 2017, Jerry was instrumental in providing guidance and support as I navigated my role as director and I will miss his candor and wisdom. He was a force in every part of his life — business, family, art collecting, philanthropy — and perhaps his most profound legacy will be his everlasting pursuit of his passions.”
Chazen was also involved in other philanthropic endeavors including the Museum of Arts & Design in New York and the Newport Jazz Festival. He was also involved in charities designed to to support survivors of domestic violence.
Chazen is survived by his wife and three children, Louise, Kathy and David.