$96 Million+ Invested in Dane County Since 1949

“[Oscar] wanted to say ‘thank you’ to the City of Madison, to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and to the residents of the Madison communities that made his success as a businessman possible. So, in his wisdom, he formed and nourished this foundation.”
— from Mary Rennebohm’s letter of resignation from the Board, 1991

Oscar Rennebohm’s legacy, and those of his wife Mary and daughter Carol, live on today through the work of the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation. 

Our Lady Queen of Peace Church dedication – Madison, WI in 1955
Establishing the Foundation

Oscar established the private foundation on December 2, 1949 with a small endowment built through the success of his Rennebohm Drug Stores chain. Its founding purposes included support of: 

  • education, as well as students through scholarships and fellowships
  • community organizations for religious, charitable, scientific or educational purposes
  • projects that benefit the poor, aging, sick, disabled, refugees and veterans
  • research on the cause and treatment of diseases
First Grants

In the foundation’s first 15 years, its board issued grants mostly to churches and places of worship, such as Beth El Temple and Beth Israel Temple; hospitals; colleges; and national charities, including the American Red Cross, YMCA and Boys Club of America (Boys & Girls Clubs of America today). Its largest gift in 1950, the first year grants were awarded, was $4,000. However, institutions it continues to consistently support — such as UW–Madison, Edgewood College and the YWCA — were some of the early grant recipients. The endowment grew as Oscar transferred his stock in Rennebohm Drug Stores, Inc., as well as his other stock and properties.

As more organizations learned about the grants, requests grew, and the foundation began to limit its geographic recipient area to Madison and Dane County. Oscar believed the foundation should adhere to its founding principles and not support recurring community drives such as The Salvation Army, or operating expenses for nonprofit organizations.

YWCA Madison lobby
Growth in Giving

From 1950 to 2000, the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation issued more than $10 million in grants to support higher education, including UW-Madison, Madison College and Edgewood College; hospitals, including St. Mary’s, UW and Methodist Hospital (now Meriter); local parks and recreation; services for older adults, disabled and disadvantaged children, and the mentally ill; and community organizations such as Attic Angel Association and Henry Vilas Zoo. Since its inception, the foundation has consistently partnered with United Way, and Oscar himself was instrumental in shaping United Way’s annual campaign model of supporting numerous local nonprofits.

The foundation endowment was considerably enriched upon the death of Oscar and Mary’s daughter, Carol, in 1981. Her $5 million bequest of appreciated Walgreens stock was instrumental in boosting the foundation’s impact.

In the late 1980s, the board hired its first President, Steven Skolaski, a longtime Rennebohm Drug Stores employee who began as a dishwasher in his teens and worked his way up to CFO. In 2022, upon Skolaski announcing his retirement, Jenni Jeffress took over as President.

The Foundation Today

From 2000 to the present, the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation stayed true to its founding principles, with its board choosing to support projects that have both immediate and lasting impact, and are influential in bettering the lives of the most vulnerable. Although it funds projects in many different areas of focus, it currently emphasizes support services for older adults and K–12 mental health. 

Aerial view of Madison, Wisconsin looking west from James Madison Park