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Fred Petri Posthumously Awarded WSB’s Distinguished Alumni Award

By Alumni Relations | Photography by Paul L. Newby II

October 27, 2023

Members of Fred Petri's family pose with WSB deans François Ortalo-Magné and Vallabh Sambamurthy.
Members of Fred Petri's family—including his two sisters, daughter, and life partner—joined WSB deans past and present for the presentation of the Distinguished Alumni Award on October 13, 2023.

Friends, family, and fellow Business Badgers gathered on Friday, October 13, to honor real estate alum Fred Petri (BBA ’69, MBA ’70) and posthumously recognize him with the Wisconsin School of Business Distinguished Alumni Award.

The award recognizes an exceptional professional career and honors alumni who make far-reaching impacts in the community, industry, and at UW–Madison.

“This is a very prestigious honor,” said Vallabh “Samba” Sambamurthy, WSB’s Albert O. Nicholas Dean, at the award event. “We’re fortunate to count Fred not just as an alum, but as a friend and somebody whose passion for Wisconsin never left him.”

The award was accepted by Petri’s life partner, Linda Morasch.

Described by colleagues as one of the most well-connected, respected, and impactful real estate professionals in the nation, Petri—who was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin—passed away in 2021 after a 15-year battle with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. He was a quiet and humble supporter of many causes and organizations, including both UW–Madison and WSB, which he credited for helping to launch his career.

“Fred truly leveraged his professional success to shape, to support, and to promote the Wisconsin Real Estate Program and the Wisconsin School of Business,” said François Ortalo-Magné, who served as the school’s dean from 2011 to 2017 and delivered remarks at the event.

Prior to becoming dean, Ortalo-Magné served as a professor of real estate and chair of the Department of Real Estate and Urban Land Economics at WSB, where he saw Petri’s impact firsthand—including his role in the creation and naming of the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate at WSB, as well as the development of new initiatives and programming to drive it forward.

Together with his cofounders, Jim Curtis III (MS ’76) and EJ Plesko (BBA ’51, MBA ’52), Petri launched the center’s signature applied learning track, the Applied Real Estate Investment Track, in 2000.

In 2017, Petri’s loved ones worked on his behalf to establish him as the 17th member of the Wisconsin Naming Partnership—an innovative philanthropic gift that preserves the Wisconsin School of Business name. With Petri’s investment in the partnership, the total of the collaborative gift to WSB reached $110 million.

In posthumously recognizing Petri with the Distinguished Alumni Award, Ortalo-Magné said it’s not just about thanking Petri for all he’s made possible for students throughout the years—but also what he’ll continue to make possible going forward.

“With this award, we want to collectively appreciate his contributions, but we also want future Badgers to know that he’s on that list of distinguished alums,” said Ortalo-Magné. “We want future Badgers to strive for that same professional excellence, that fierce commitment, and that humble generosity.”