The Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment is a unique gift to the University of Wisconsin-Madison that is designed to involve faculty, staff, and students, and to honor the Baldwins’ pioneering leadership in extending the talent, knowledge, and resources of the campus to the people of the state, the nation, and the world.
Ira Baldwin and Ineva Reilly Baldwin believed that the “quality of a university is determined primarily by the quality of its staff and students.” As such, the endowment will provide opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to share the university’s knowledge and resources throughout the world, and to return knowledge from throughout the world to the university.
The Baldwins had hands-on experience with virtually every aspect of UW–Madison. Ira came to Madison in 1925 as a graduate student after serving in World War I and earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture from Purdue University. Ira’s fields of interest were the biological and chemical sciences. As a teacher, researcher, and administrator, he worked closely with both undergraduate and graduate students. Ira was Chair of the Bacteriology Department (1941–44), Dean of the Graduate School (1944–45), Dean of the College of Agriculture (1945–48), and Vice President for Academic Affairs (1949–66). Ira was probably best known for helping discover bacteria that improved crop yields, particularly alfalfa, which facilitated the growth of the state’s dairy industry. His work embodies the Wisconsin Idea because it transferred knowledge to the world outside the boundaries of the University, creating better lives for thousands of people.
Ineva Reilly Baldwin’s interests were focused on students and the arts and humanities. She received her undergraduate education at UW–Madison, the University of Geneva in Switzerland, and the University of Colorado. She earned a master’s degree in botany from the UW. Her career involved teaching and serving in university administration. During World War II, she enlisted in the Coast Guard Reserves and attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander, the highest rank achieved by a woman at that time. Ineva served as Assistant Dean of Women (1941–42) and as both Assistant and Associate Dean of the College of Letters and Science (1946–54). Later, she served on the advisory council of the Elvehjem Museum of Art. Throughout her professional life, Ineva put the progress and welfare of students first.
During their many years of support for UW–Madison, the Baldwins provided support for professorships, fellowships, graduate student recruitment, scholarships, the Arboretum, Allen Centennial Gardens, Southeast Asia Center, University Club and the Clinical Cancer Center. In 1981, the Baldwins were honored with the Wisconsin Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Service Award. The Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment is one of the largest gifts ever received by the UW–Madison, consisting of nearly $18 million of Reilly Industries stock. Additionally, the Baldwins established $2 million endowments in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs offices from their gift.