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Sunday, March 03, 2024

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Emerita Rebecca M. Blank passed away peacefully with family by her side Friday evening after a seven month battle with cancer. Blank, 67, served as chancellor from 2013 to 2022. (Courtesy of Jeff Miller / UW-Madison)

Former Chancellor Rebecca Blank dies at 67 after cancer battle

Former University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, who led the university for nine years, died Friday evening at age 67

Blank passed away Friday evening after a seven month battle with cancer, according to an email sent by current Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin to the campus community. 

“Our community has lost a brilliant leader who cared deeply about making this great public research university stronger, more accessible, better connected to the community and the state, and better positioned to make a difference in the world,” Mnookin wrote.

Blank, who served as chancellor from 2013 until 2022, resigned in order to accept a position as president of Northwestern University. However, Blank was diagnosed with cancer shortly after and resigned from her position at Northwestern.

Messages from across the university system poured in Saturday afternoon. 

“She was a great leader for our flagship university, whose strength and vision built a legacy and foundation that benefits so many here in Wisconsin. Her accomplishments at UW–Madison rippled across this state and our nation. She made us all better, and we will miss her,” UW System President Jay Rothman said. 

Board of Regents President Karen Walsh said Blank “leaves an extraordinary legacy for all of us at the UW System and our sympathy is with her family. We will all greatly miss her.”

The university announced in late January that UW-Madison’s Public History Project will become the Rebecca M. Blank Center for Campus History to acknowledge her commissioning of the project to reckon with campus history. 

Blank shepherded the university through years of state funding cuts and a tuition freeze during her time as Chancellor. She also led a $4.2 billion fundraising campaign, the largest in university history. 

Blank also oversaw the creation of Bucky’s Tuition Promise. First implemented in 2018, the program has provided full tuition coverage for incoming UW-Madison resident freshmen or transfer students whose families make $60,000 or less. 

Members of the campus community are asked to share tributes and memories of Blank at a website that has been set up in her honor: 

This story may be updated. 

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Hope Karnopp

Hope Karnopp is the news manager and dabbles in music reviews at The Daily Cardinal. She previously hosted the Cardinal Call for WORT-FM and edited state news.

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Tyler Katzenberger is the managing editor at The Daily Cardinal. As a former state news editor, he covered numerous protests and wrote state politics, healthcare, business and in-depth stories. Follow him on Twitter at @TylerKatzen.

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