28 Dec UW Celebrates Legacy of Herb Kohl: Alumnus, Philanthropist, and Senator
Herbert H. Kohl ’56, a giant of Wisconsin business, politics, and philanthropy, is being remembered by the University of Wisconsin–Madison community as a distinguished alumnus, strong advocate, and loyal supporter.
Kohl died Wednesday, December 27, at his home in Milwaukee. He was 88.
“Herb Kohl was one of the greats, and I’m honored and grateful that I had the chance to spend time with him several times over the last 18 months,” UW–Madison Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin says.
“During his 88 years, Senator Kohl made an incredible mark on our state as a businessman, politician, and philanthropist. And he was a devoted Badger, an alumnus, a supporter, and a champion of the university and of higher education,” Mnookin says. I am so grateful for his generosity to the Kohl Center and the La Follette School of Public Affairs, his common-sense approach to politics, and his fundamental decency.”
The son of Polish and Russian immigrants, Kohl was born and raised in Milwaukee. After graduating from Washington High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree from UW–Madison in 1956 and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1958.
He joined the United States Army Reserve and served until 1964, and then worked as an investor in the stock market and real estate. After his father Max’s passing in 1981, Kohl and his brother Sidney ran the family’s chain of department and grocery stores, with Herb serving as CEO and president.
Kohl ran successfully to represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate in 1988 and was widely popular, winning reelection three times in his home state. Announcing in 2012 that he would not seek reelection, he was succeeded by Tammy Baldwin JD’89.
In 1995, Kohl contributed $25 million to the UW to build the Kohl Center multipurpose arena, the home of the UW men’s and women’s basketball teams, and the UW men’s hockey team as well as commencements, concerts, and major university events. The donation was at the time the largest private donation in the university’s history.