UW-Whitewater on Thursday announced the largest gift in university history—a $5 million donation from an alumnus.
Byron R. “Chris” Chrisman is not a new face in UW-W donor circles. He donated $1.5 million in 2015 to build the Mary Poppe Chrisman Success Center, named after his late wife.
The $5 million gift will benefit the Student Success Fund, Warhawk Emergency Fund, and UW-Whitewater rugby and wheelchair athletics, according to a UW-W news release.
Chrisman is the founding donor of the Student Success Fund, which supports the university’s tutoring services. The money will help hire tutors, buy technology, improve accessibility and enhance programming, according to the release.
The Warhawk Emergency Fund helps low-income students in financial emergencies so they can stay in school. Since 2017, 300 students have been given $250,000 for housing, car repairs, transportation, medical bills and child care, among other things.
Each student who received help from the emergency fund stayed in school the subsequent semester, according to the release.
Rugby and wheelchair athletics are club sports that rely on private contributions, according to the release. Chrisman’s donation will be used to recruit and retain athletes, pay for travel and develop practice and competition space.
Chrisman left school in ninth grade to join the Army during the Korean War. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business from UW-Whitewater in 1959 and pursued careers in accounting, law and real estate.
“UW-Whitewater sort of kick-started the engine, so to speak, and made it possible for me to go above and beyond,” Chrisman said in the release.
Chrisman now lives in Colorado. He received his law degree in 1966 from the University of Colorado, where he led a steering committee to raise $12 million for the Wolf Law Building, according to the university’s website.