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Herma Heart Institute

Nicholas Family Foundation donates $1.5 million to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Gift will support endowed chair in pediatric heart transplant


Children’s Wisconsin has received a $1.5 million gift commitment from the Nicholas Family Foundation to support an endowed chair in pediatric heart transplant. The donation supports the $8 million challenge gift from the Herma family. Announced in April, the challenge benefits the Herma Heart Institute and supports ongoing research and clinical innovation focused on eradicating congenital heart defects and revolutionizing programs designed to improve the quality of life for pediatric heart patients and their families. 

The Nicholas family gift will establish the Albert O. Nicholas Endowed Chair in Heart Transplant, named in honor of the family’s patriarch. Albert Nicholas, better known as Ab Nicholas, studied finance at UW-Madison and become a money manager, eventually founding the Nicholas Company, a Milwaukee-based investment advisory firm. 

“The initial dollars for this gift came from memorial gifts contributed in honor of dad who passed away last year.” said Ab’s daughter Lynn Nicholas, president of the foundation. “We wanted to focus our philanthropy on helping kids with heart issues. Children’s Wisconsin is an amazing resource for Wisconsin families facing some of the most difficult challenges imaginable. My mom and entire family are proud to support Children’s and to help provide hope to families with sick kids.” 

The gift is the latest example of the Nicholas family’s support of Children’s. Past gifts have supported child abuse prevention and community outreach programs, the West Tower addition, and the expansion and renovation of Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

“The Nicholas family has had an amazing impact on our community, from academic scholarship support to health research,” said Meg Brzyski Nelson, president of Children’s Wisconsin Foundation.“We are grateful for their support to Children’s and their commitment to Wisconsin families. The Nicholas family gift puts us well on the way to matching the Herma challenge.”

Through December 30, 2017, the Herma family will match gifts to Children’s Wisconsin designated to heart care up to $8 million. John and Susan Herma became involved with the heart program at Children’s Wisconsin in the 1980s when they lost their daughter, Leigh, to a complex heart disease. Inspired by the compassionate care they received and the desire to improve outcomes for other families in that same situation, the Hermas began to donate to the hospital’s heart program.

Individuals interested in supporting the Herma challenge can visit or call the Children’s Wisconsin Foundation at (414) 266-6100.