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Jerome Chazen, fashion industry leader who helped UW art museum grow, dies at 94 | Local News

Jerome Chazen, fashion industry leader who helped UW art museum grow, dies at 94 | Local News

The Chazens

Jerome and Simona Chazen attend the opening ceremony of the new building at the Chazen Museum of Art in October 2011. 

Jerome Chazen, a UW-Madison graduate who went on to co-found Liz Claiborne Inc., and donated $25 million to fund the expansion of the campus art museum named after him and his wife, died Sunday at age 94.

“Jerry was deeply devoted to the arts and to education,” UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a press release, adding that Chazen was someone who found great joy in introducing new audiences to the art world.

“His commitment to UW–Madison will live on in the Chazen Museum of Art and the many lives he touched,” she said.

The free museum at 750 University Ave., near Park Street, was founded as the Elvehjem Art Center in 1970 and became the Elvehjem Museum of Art in 1978.

It was renamed the Chazen in 2005 after Jerry and Simona Chazen, his wife of 72 years, made the lead gift in the museum’s expansion in 2011.

The couple met when they were attending UW.

The Chazen is the largest collecting museum in the Big Ten and the second-largest art museum in Wisconsin.

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“I am deeply saddened by the news of Jerry Chazen’s passing,” said museum director Amy Gilman. “Since my arrival at the Chazen in 2017, Jerry was instrumental in providing guidance and support as I navigated my role as director 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 most profound legacy will be his everlasting pursuit of his passions.”

As alumni, in the 1980s, the Chazens became active with the Elvehjem. By 1997, Simona had joined its advisory council. In 2000, the couple made their first gift of art to the museum, Harvey Littleton’s Red Squared Descending Form (1982).

Together they served on the museum’s advisory council for more than 20 years. The Chazens gave many works of art to the museum and a large part of their remarkable collection will eventually enter the collection, according to UW-Madison.

Chazen was born in New York City and got his bachelor’s degree in economics from the UW in 1948. He credited a UW–Madison art history course with awakening his interest in the visual arts.

A funeral service will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday Eastern Time at Riverside Memorial Chapter in Manhattan and via livestream at www.legacycelebrated.com/jerome-chazen/.