2007 Distinguished Alumni Award Honoree
Well-known philanthropists, Jerome and Simona Chazen grew up surrounded by the arts. While Jerome’s passion for jazz goes back to when he was a boy in New York City, it was an art history course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that first awakened his interest in the visual arts. “I wouldn't call it an epiphany, exactly, but studying the arts at the university raised my awareness in many ways and allowed me to become a different person than I would have otherwise,” he says. Simona’s love of the arts sprung from her childhood Victorian home, which her parents filled with 19th- and early-20th-century objects they found in small, out-of-the-way antique shops.
After earning a bachelor’s degree at UW-Madison and an MBA at Columbia University, Jerome spent many years in the fashion industry. He was one of four founders of Liz Claiborne, Inc. He is also the founder and chairman of Chazen Capital Partners, a private equity firm in New York.
Simona is a practicing psychotherapist specializing in family issues, such as divorce and abuse. She is a board member of the Museum of Arts & Design in New York City, along with serving on several other arts and charitable boards.
The Chazens began collecting art with the purchase of a print more than 40 years ago. Today their collection includes more than 500 pieces, including many masterworks.
Initially attracted to UW-Madison because of the campus’s beauty and reputation for academic excellence, the Chazens have fond memories of their time here. The $20 million gift that created the Chazen Museum of Art comes from the Chazen Foundation, a private organization created by the Chazens to support projects and causes important to them.
Says Simona, “In recent years, the arts have been tremendously shortchanged in education. The gift and museum expansion allow for more art from the collection to be seen, and it will create a larger presence for the museum in campus and community life.”