Board of Visitors spotlight: Katharine Lyall

Profile photo of Katharine Lyall.Katharine C. Lyall, who served as president of the University of Wisconsin System from 1992 to 2004, has advised the La Follette School through her service on its Board of Visitors since 2015.

Lyall was the fifth president of the University of Wisconsin System and its first woman president. As president, she was responsible for 26 Wisconsin campuses attended by 160,000 students — the eighth-largest university system in the country at that time. She increased funding for UW System programs by attracting new grants and private donations, and she more than doubled distance education courses and enrollments during her term. She also introduced the country’s first university accountability report, which allows the public to evaluate the services provided by the campuses in the system. She retired from the UW System presidency in September 2004. Prior to her appointment as president in 1992, she served as vice president for academic affairs and as executive vice president of the UW System.

In addition to providing guidance to the La Follette School through her role on the board, Lyall has provided financial support that directly benefits students for many years. Her gifts have supported the internship and project assistantship experiences of the school’s undergraduate and graduate students. This support has allowed students to take advantage of life-changing career opportunities in ways that help society, putting the Wisconsin Idea into action.

“Public policy skills and knowledge are of growing importance to maintaining democracy,” says Lyall. “La Follette provides an excellent focus for this learning and research. I’m proud to support its work.”

Lyall has held faculty appointments at Syracuse University, Cornell, and Johns Hopkins. She was director of the Graduate Program in Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University. Lyall joined the UW–Madison faculty as an economics professor in 1982. During the Carter Administration, she served as deputy assistant secretary for policy development and research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She chaired the board of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Lyall earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Cornell University in in 1963, and then an M.B.A. from New York University and a Ph.D. from Cornell.

The La Follette School Board of Visitors provides important guidance by identifying resources that can raise the stature and standing of the school, helping with fundraising, providing career advice to students, and acting as goodwill ambassadors. The La Follette School is grateful to Lyall for sharing her extensive expertise with the board and the school.

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