Jerome Frautschi's $205 million gift to the citizens of Madison in the form of the Overture Center was a stunner. Such extraordinary generosity has garnered the praise of many and, this being Madison, stoked the ire of a few. But it was and continues to be a transformative act that has reshaped downtown Madison, especially in the area of iconic State Street.
One might ask what inspires such philanthropy, and that's pretty much what Stu Levitan was trying to determine when he began researching our cover story this week, "The Frautschis of Madison." His exploration of Frautschi family history has found that Jerome's act was in character for his family throughout their long Madison residence.
You might describe it as terroir, a term of the wine trade that ascribes the character of the vintage to the earth in which it was grown. The Frautschi family tradition of civic involvement was fertile ground to produce such a contribution to the common welfare. Once you know the context, the gift is not such a surprise.
And don't ignore the women who took the Frautschi name. It can be said of the Frautschi men that they married well. After all, it was Pleasant Rowland, as Mrs. Frautschi, who conceived of the American Girl doll and built the company around it that eventually provided the funds Jerome Frautschi has been so generous with. That was after she instigated Concerts on the Square.
But enough. Let's just say that Madison has been good to the Frautschis and the Frautschis have been good to Madison. Levitan tells you how that has come about.
May I remind you that tickets are on sale for the Isthmus Food & Wine Festival on Oct. 18 and 19. Check out isthmusfoodandwine.com for more information and to purchase tickets.