The Greater Milwaukee Foundation honored philanthropist Herb Kohl, retired WEC Energy Group executive Thelma Sias, and Quarles & Brady chairman emeritus John Daniels, Jr. for their contributions to Milwaukee at its annual meeting on Thursday at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
Kohl, a former U.S. senator and former owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, was recognized with the Frank Kirkpatrick Award, which honors individuals who have made physical improvements in the community. Kohl was praised for his work to keep the Milwaukee Bucks in the city and for contributing $100 million to the arena project. While accepting the award, Kohl gave credit to the Bucks’ leadership and local government in helping with the effort.
“Something like keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee, getting a new arena, sparking downtown development, creating thousands of jobs and opportunities for people in the future is not something that one person could do or did do,” Kohl said. “The truth is that a lot of people and a lot of institutions worked together to make it happen.”
Daniels was given the William C. Frye Award, which recognizes those who have made civic contributions to the community. Daniels has served as one of the leading coordinators of the MKE Fellows Program, an initiative that encourages young men from Milwaukee to complete their college education and return to work in the city.
Sias was given the Doug Jansson Leadership Award, which recognizes nonprofit leaders and community volunteers who advocate on behalf of underserved communities. Sias, who recently retired as vice president of local affairs for WEC Energy Group, previously served as community campaign co-chair for the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and has served on many charitable and philanthropic boards.
The foundation also announced the launch of an initiative aimed at creating a conversation around the community’s vision for the future. On Oct. 17, the foundation will host a forum called “On the Table,” during which people will be encouraged to gather in small groups across the region for a meal and discussion about how to improve the quality of life in the community.
Ellen Gilligan, president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, said that 2016 was the largest grant-making year in its history, with the foundation making $60 million in grants throughout the region. Gilligan said the foundation’s assets also recently surpassed $810 million.
“This growth ensures the community will benefit for generations to come,” she said.