Gift Report 2007:
Memorial fund to promote Denton legacy
Denice Denton made things happen. A former professor of electrical and computer engineering, Denton created a supportive, professional network for her female colleagues at a time when there were few female faculty in UW-Madison science and engineering departments. She learned how to navigate the beaurocratic system and as a result, became an effective leader herself, ultimately serving as chancellor of the University of California-Santa Cruz. She was a popular and innovative educator who made significant contributions to science and engineering educational initiatives both on campus and nationwide. She was an advocate for and a mentor to scores of women and minorities who now are faculty members or scientists at UW-Madison and universities around the world.
“Denton was an extraordinarily talented scholar and educational leader and relentless voice for progress,” says former UW-Madison Chancellor and current University of Miami President Donna Shalala. “She helped shape the direction of our nation’s science and engineering enterprise through her research, teaching, technology, development, service, leadership, mentoring, public communication of science and engineering, initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion, and outreach to our schools. She was bigger than life. She opened doors and stood in them to let others through. She mentored young scholars and students. Her enthusiasm for science was clear and infectious. She was a force—a magnificent force. She pushed the institutions she inhabited to be better than they wanted to be.”
Denton died unexpectedly in June 2006. After her death, her colleagues at UW-Madison established the Denice D. Denton Memorial Fund. “Denice made such a big impact on so many of us,” says Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering Vicki Bier, who met Denton early in her own career at UW-Madison. “Now, with her not here to continue doing that, it falls to us to do those things for other people.”
The memorial fund will provide a scholarship to a student who demonstrates financial need and a commitment to one or more areas that were important to Denton. It also will support a lecture series that offers a menu of national speakers about goals for which Denton strived, including educational excellence, diversity and leadership.
The memorial fund is intended to help carry on Denton’s legacy, says Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor and department co-chair Amy Wendt. “As we worked out a plan for this fund, at several points I got discouraged, thinking no amount of money can replace Denice, who single-handedly transformed UW-Madison in a positive way,” says Wendt. ”But one thing the fund can help with is to keep her spirit alive, to help us to build networks so we can rally together and ‘get things done,’ as Denice did so well.”
Bier, Wendt and their colleagues hope to raise $200,000. Although they have not yet met their goal (donations to the memorial fund will enable the speaker series to continue in future years), they have scheduled the first two speakers in the lecture series. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Amgen, Inc. Professor of Biology Nancy Hopkins will lecture September 12, 2008, and University of California-Hastings Distinguished Professor of Law Joan C. Williams will speak November 2, 2009.
To contribute to the Denice Denton Memorial Fund, look for the secure giving link at wiseli.engr.wisc.edu/events/denton_fund.htm or mail your donation (note fund No. 12344610 on your check) to the University of Wisconsin Foundation at U.S. Bank Lockbox, P.O. Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807.