Herb Kohl (left) and Bud Selig receive their 2014 Distinguished Alumni Awards from Paula Bonner at an event in Milwaukee in June 2015.

Recognizing Alumni Excellence

Herb Kohl (left) and Bud Selig receive their 2014 Distinguished Alumni Awards from Paula Bonner at an event in Milwaukee in June 2015. This award is the highest honor presented by WAA and recognizes exemplary alumni whose professional lives, philanthropic efforts, and university support embody the Wisconsin Idea.

The Commish and the Senator talk about the UW’s impact and make a pitch for education.

Their friendship has spanned decades: growing up in the same Milwaukee neighborhood, as roommates at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and throughout careers at the highest levels of national leadership. And now, two UW-Madison graduates have received the highest alumni honors.

Former U.S. Senator Herbert H. “Herb” Kohl ’56 and Allan H. “Bud” Selig ’56, commissioner of Major League Baseball, received WAA’s 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award.

In 2014, WAA marked 79 years of giving out Distinguished Alumni Awards. Bud Selig and Herb Kohl are the first two recipients who were also roommates while on campus.

“Wisconsin alumni everywhere can be proud of the great success and national contributions that Senator Kohl and Commissioner Selig have both achieved in their remarkable careers,” says Paula Bonner.

Kohl earned his bachelor’s in American institutions. He retired in 2011, following 23 years as a U.S. senator. He was a longtime owner of the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association, and he provided the lead gift for the UW’s Kohl Center athletic facility. The senator also founded the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation, which provides annual grants totaling $400,000 to 200 graduating high school seniors, 100 Wisconsin teachers, and 100 schools throughout Wisconsin.

Selig earned his degrees in history and political science. Following his retirement as the commissioner of Major League Baseball in January 2015, he expects to spend additional time on campus, where he guest-lectures and maintains an office in the Department of History. In 2010, he established the Allan H. Selig Chair in History, and he has also made a gift to the athletic department’s new student-athlete performance facility, which includes a welcome center named the Bud Selig Hall of Champions.

The importance of the University of Wisconsin goes beyond the personal realm for Selig.

“Education has been so critical to our generation, our parents’ generation, and [generations] since then,” he says. “Here’s one of the greatest universities in America, and one would hope that it will always be one of the great universities of America. We have to do what it takes to keep it there.”