Former Paper Machinery owners pledge $8 million to Art Museum endowment

Baumgartners sold company to employees earlier this month

Milwaukee Art Museum

Donna and Donald Baumgartner, who announced earlier this month they would sell their family company, Paper Machinery Corp., to its employees through an employee stock ownership plan, aren’t done splitting up their fortune.

Milwaukee Art Museum
Milwaukee Art Museum

The couple announced this morning it will give $8 million to the Milwaukee Art Museum’s endowment fund to help pay the salary of future museum directors.

Paper Machinery, located at 8900 W. Bradley Road, earns more than $100 million in annual revenue. The Baumgartners’ decision to initiate an employee stock ownership plan could pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into the accounts of employees over time.

The Baumgartners have been active supporters of the Milwaukee Art Museum  for years. Donald, a MAM trustee and former president of its board, was a member of the architecture selection committee in the early 2000s. He also was the chairman of the museum’s building committee during construction of its iconic Santiago Calatrava-designed addition, which opened in 2004.

“We are very proud of the Milwaukee Art Museum as an institution and as a vital part of the city in which we’ve lived and worked,” Donald said in a statement. “Our gift is a way to celebrate past accomplishments and support future directors as they lead Milwaukee’s most acclaimed cultural institution.”

Art Museum director Dan Keegan, who has led the institution for eight years, will retire this week. The Baumgartners said their gift is intended to build on Keegan’s legacy.

“We’ve been so inspired by Dan Keegan’s leadership and vision for the future; In particular, his passion for securing the viability of the museum for generations to come,” Donna said in a statement. “We wanted to carry on his legacy and keep the momentum going,”

The donation is the largest ever made to the Milwaukee Art Museum’s endowment.

“I am deeply honored and humbled by this significant gift to the museum, and we are all grateful to the Baumgartners for their unwavering support,” Keegan said. “There is no finer legacy gift than a gift to the endowment, and this sets a strong foundation for future directors to build on.”

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Ben Stanley
Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.