Jérôme Chazen, namesake of the Chazen art museum, dies at 94

Philanthropist Jerome Chazen, namesake of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chazen Museum of Art, died last Sunday at the age of 94.

Chazen attended UW-Madison where he graduated in 1948 before receiving his MBA from Columbia Business School in 1950. Chazen went on to a successful career in business becoming one of four founding partners of Liz Claiborne Inc., a women’s fashion company, and later serving as founder and chairman of Chazen Capital Partners.

From the 1980s, Chazen and his wife, Simona Chazen, were actively involved in the development of the Elvehjem Art Museum and served on the establishment’s board of elders for 20 years, with Simona Chazen joining the museum’s advisory board in 1997.

The Chazens have made several contributions to the development of the UW Museum of Art, including a gift of $20 million in 2005, enabling the facility to be expanded in 2011. Due to the couple’s considerable contributions to the Chazen Museum of Art, formerly known as Elvehjem, the facility was renamed in honor of Chazen upon its completion.

In addition to financial contributions, the Chazen family also donated several works of art to the museum, including “Red square descending formwhich was gifted by the couple in 2000.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebbeca Blank commented on Chazen’s death, recalling her commitment to pursuing arts education at her alma mater.

“Jerry was deeply dedicated to the arts and to education,” Blank said. “His commitment to UW-Madison will continue in the Chazen Museum of Art and in the many lives he touched.

Museum director Amy Gilman echoed Blank’s sentiments, recalling Chazen as someone committed to furthering his education at the UW-Madison campus.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of Jerry Chazen’s passing,” Gilman said. “Since joining Chazen in 2017, Jerry has been instrumental in providing guidance and support as I navigated my role as manager and I will miss his candor and wisdom. He was a force in every part of his life – business, family, art collecting, philanthropy – and perhaps his deepest legacy will be his eternal pursuit of his passions.

Chazen has also been involved in other philanthropic projects, including the Museum of Arts & Design in New York and the Newport Jazz Festival. He has also been involved with charities designed to support survivors of domestic violence.

Chazen is survived by his wife and three children, Louise, Kathy and David.

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Reggie S. Williams