With more than 440,000 living alumni and a top-tier reputation, UW–Madison has no shortage of exceptional graduates. Selecting the superlative among this crowd is no easy task, but the Wisconsin Alumni Association has offered Distinguished Alumni Awards annually since 1936. This year, WAA’s highest honor acknowledges four alumni who have made stellar contributions to their professions, their communities, and their alma mater.
Diane Endres Ballweg, who has been known to serve on dozens of committees and boards per year, stands out for her fierce commitment to giving of her time and talent in addition to her financial resources.
Endres Ballweg is the owner of Endres Manufacturing, a steel fabricating business in Waunakee, Wisconsin, that was established by her grandfather in 1926. She started the company’s foundation in 1996 and serves as its president. The foundation, which has grown to $6 million, gives about $300,000 per year. This year, it is partnering with the UW Philanthropy Lab, which promotes student philanthropy, through UW–Madison’s School of Human Ecology.
Endres Ballweg earned three degrees — including her UW–Madison degree in music — while raising her three children. She taught music in several area schools and through her music studio, The Perfect Octave, which she ran for 25 years. She also taught guitar at the UW Extension. She and her daughter, Kate, fulfilled a goal to visit all seven continents and swim in all four oceans before Kate graduated from high school.
Endres Ballweg earned her private pilot’s license in 1997 and has landed at 336 airports on five different continents. Since 2001, she has shared her love of aviation as an instructor and the founder of the aviation program at Edgewood High School in Madison.
Inspired by the nonprofit group Women Moving Millions, she has been a pioneer in women’s philanthropy, beginning her sizeable charitable donations at a time when such gifts were mostly given by men.
A member of the Bascom Hill Society, she has made substantial gifts to the School of Music, the School of Human Ecology, and other campus units and initiatives. She supports the university’s 4W Initiative, which seeks to improve the lives and health of women around the globe. And most recently, Endres Ballweg has provided two Steinway grand pianos that will grace the concert stages of the UW’s new Hamel Music Center.
She has also given to Madison’s Overture Center, Edgewood College, Edgewood High School, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, The Road Home, Porchlight Inc., the Madison Children’s Museum, the Madison Public Library Foundation, and the Kennedy Center’s REACH facility.
One of her current involvements includes chairing the new Madison Youth Arts Center project, which will open a facility on Madison’s near east side in 2021 where youngsters can engage in the performing arts. She serves on the board of the UW–Madison Mead Witter School of Music, as well as on the National Committee for the Performing Arts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
She’s also been active with the Madison Community Foundation. Its president, Bob Sorge, says, “Nobody has more energy than Diane. In almost the same sentence, she will tell you about an event she hosted in her home last night, offer to do the same for you, and ask if there’s anybody special she might thank with a personal note.”
Endres Ballweg definitely lives up to one of her favorite sayings, an Einstein quote that she paraphrases as, “Don’t strive to be a person of wealth, but rather a person of value.”
Learn more about the honorees at uwalumni.com/about/alumni-awards/distinguished-alumni-award/