Former UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank dies of cancer

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank
University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank(UW-Madison)
Published: Feb. 18, 2023 at 5:25 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Rebecca Blank, chancellor of UW-Madison for nine years, died of cancer Friday, the university announced.

Blank was 67 years old.

She was an economist and educator who led “one of the country’s top public research universities through a complex political period and a devastating global pandemic,” a university website honoring Blank wrote.

“Our community has lost a brilliant leader who cared deeply about making this great public research university stronger, more accessible, better connected to the community and the state and better positioned to make a difference in the world,” Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said.

She graduated with a degree in Economics from the University of Minnesota and continued her education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for her PhD.

Blank had ended her tenure with UW-Madison in 2022 and left to become the first female president of Northwestern University. She withdrew from the position in July, due to her cancer diagnosis.

She was known for creating Bucky’s Tuition Promise at UW-Madison which guarantees qualified undergraduate Wisconsinites full scholarships for all four years. Blank also helped to bring commencement back to Camp Randall in partnership with the 2014 spring class.

“Becky was a transformational leader for UW–Madison, serving during challenging times,” says Provost Karl Scholz.

Former director of the UW–Madison Institute for Research on Poverty, called Blank “a true visionary and role model who I am honored to have known and worked with closely.”

On Thursday, UW-Madison offered its new Rebecca Blank Professorship to a botany professor in honor of Blank’s leadership and service. Blank held the second-longest tenure of any Big Ten public institution leader.

During her time at UW-Madison, Blank helped to finish a $4.2 billion fundraising campaign which created over 5,000 student scholarships--making it the largest in UW history.

“Former Chancellor Blank was a tireless leader whose impact on campus is undeniable,” said Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association CEO Mike Knetter.

She is survived by her husband Hanns Kuttner, daughter, brother and mother.

This is a developing story.

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