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February 1, 2017

Lifetime loyal Badgers return to Madison, bearing estate gift for CBE Department

Written By: Lexy Brodt

Harriette and Jack Burkhalter graduated from UW-Madison in 1957—Harriette with a BS in chemistry, and Jack with a BS in chemical engineering. Recently, after years of living in Minnesota in the summer and Arizona in the winter, the couple—who met as undergraduate students—finally moved back to the home of their alma mater. They accompanied their move with an estate gift to the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering annual fund.

The annual fund is discretionary—it gives the department the opportunity and flexibility to support initiatives for which funding isn’t immediately available. The estate gift itself is a “planned gift,” which means it is integrated into the giver’s will.

“We were motivated to donate by our respect for the university—what it has done for us and our life, and out of respect for the department,” Jack says. “Certainly, I got a very good education there, and it did well for us, and we wanted to give something in return.”

 the 1956 CBE summer lab. Jack is sitting in the middle of the fourth row.
Photo of the 1956 CBE summer lab. Jack is sitting in the middle of the fourth row.

He and Harriette first met in a freshman chemistry course at UW-Madison. Although 60 years have passed since their time as undergraduate students, the two still have vivid and fond memories of their times at the university. Jack, for one, still remembers the difficulty of the chemical engineering summer lab. “It was probably the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life,” he says.

“It was almost 40 hours of class and 40 hours of homework a week, and a very difficult thing to get through.”

Harriette, who grew up in Chicago, decided to attend UW-Madison after a family friend made a recommendation that stuck with her: “It doesn’t matter what you study at UW-Madison; you will get a good education.”

Jack and Harriette attended the university at a uniquely fortuitous time for both of them. Harriette recalls being one of the few females in the chemistry department at the time, and being lucky to learn under high quality faculty who, she says: “cared about their students, and challenged them.” Jack had the opportunity to learn under R. Byron Bird, Warren Earl Stewart and Edwin N. Lightfoot in chemical engineering.

After graduating, the two moved to Minnesota, where Harriette worked as a research associate for 3M, and Jack was an operations engineer with Cargill, in food processing plant operations. He continued to work for Cargill until his retirement in 1997.

The couple—even after 60 years of living away from Wisconsin—are loyal Badgers. “I grew up in Madison, and I’ve been going to football and basketball games since I was old enough to take the bus to campus,” says Jack, who also attended the UW-Madison high school before it closed in 1964.

He and Harriette continue to cherish their connection with the university and with Madison as a whole. “We really liked the idea of coming back to Madison; it’s a great place to live, and in retirement, we have more time on our hands to enjoy it,” says Jack.