Blair and Leah Temkin Scholarship Award

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Leah Temkin

Ripples in the Water

As told by Mark and Leslie, with help from Terrie, Larry and Meg, and Ron and Maria

As we pass through life, our impact is not always limited to just those we know. Rather, we have the ability to do more; to touch and impact strangers. We have the ability, like casting stones upon the water, to spread ripples far and wide, making differences in lives we may never know.

This is a story of two people, Blair (Bud) and Leah (Lee) Temkin, who cast those stones and have impacted so many lives, particularly at the University of Wisconsin.

The Early Days

Their story really begins with their parents; all immigrants who came from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s with nothing but the proverbial clothes on their backs. Yet, Lee's father, Abraham (Abe) Sigman, managed to work his way through school, eventually becoming a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School and one of the leading lawyers in the State of Wisconsin. Lee's mother, Faye Sigman, became equally successful in her own way. She was a successful businesswoman at a time when women were not considered business people, a regional leader in the League of Women Voters, the first woman in Wisconsin to be asked to run for the state senate and founder and principal of the first Jewish religious school in Appleton, Wisconsin. Bud's parents, Louis and Lee Temkin, also succeeded against the odds, fulfilling the American Dream by working their way up from the rag trade to owning a butcher shop, a grocery store, a furniture store and eventually becoming successful investors.  In both cases, however, what was important to them was that their children become educated and have better opportunities than themselves: the essence of the American Dream. This led to both Bud and Lee attending the University of Wisconsin, Bud as a chemical engineer - where he received both his Bachelor of Science and Master's Degrees in Chemical Engineering, and Lee in letters and science. They married in 1949 while Lee was still in school and in 1950, their first child, Terrie, was born. Over the next six years, they had three more children and Lee was forced to temporarily leave school to raise the children. However, that did not stop her thirst for education. She later returned to school, eventually earning a Doctorate in Education.

The Key to Success - Education

Bud and Lee both felt that education was the portal to success and emphasized the need for higher education. This emphasis was so strong that when their children wanted to follow in the family business, they were told they must first get an advanced degree. To Bud and Lee, it did not even matter what area of higher education was pursued, only that each of their children obtained higher degrees. This led Terrie to obtaining her Doctorate in Communication, Mark and Ron each became lawyers with Masters in Taxation and Larry obtained his Doctorate in Philosophy. But this is not the story of the children, other than as a reflection of their parents.

The importance which Bud and Lee put on education was not limited to their own children. They assisted with their children's spouses' education and six grandchildren's education. However, they did not stop there; they "adopted" overseas children, not just sending money, but actually corresponding with the adoptees. Lee taught reading, mostly to poor and immigrant populations. Later in life she became a cluster coordinator for Nova University, guiding doctoral students through the distance learning process. They established scholarships, many of which are at the University of Wisconsin to assist others in getting the education which they believed was so important for themselves and their family. The Larry Temkin Prize, a Scholarship Fund in Philosophy, was established at the University of Wisconsin, and together, with Lee's sister Myra Taxman and her brother-in-law Royal Taxman, they established the Faye Greenberg Sigman Lecture Series Fund at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Abe Sigman Scholarship Fund in Law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In typical Bud and Lee fashion, all of this was done without ever seeking the limelight, for all of the scholarships they established were in the names of others, not themselves.

Carrying on - the next generation 

Because of their parents' guidance and selflessness, in 1997 the four children believed something should be done to honor Bud and Lee, and with that, the Blair H. and Leah D. Temkin Scholarship was established. Seven years later, and through the continued contributions by the children, the first Blair H. and Leah D. Temkin Scholarship was awarded. Since then, there have been 26 scholarship winners, making it a little easier for budding artists to pursue their dream of bringing art to the world.

Why art? Art was a passion of Bud and Lee's and remains a passion of Lee's (Bud having passed away in 1998). While we may never really know the true reason why art became such a passion for both, we suspect that Bud's war experiences, which had him on the front lines of some of the most devastating fighting in World War II, may have caused him to search for a return to beauty and life, and art can do that. Art also appealed to Bud's engineering side as he always looked at the technical aspects of the art he was so interested in.

Art has the ability to affect so many people, not just the person creating the work, but everyone who comes into contact with it. It was with that in mind that when Bud passed away, Lee acquired Buckminster Fuller's magnificent 500-pound sculpture Sixty Strut Tensegrity Sphere and donated it to the School of Engineering Centers Building.There, it serves as a daily reminder to the students who pass by of the opportunities and creativity that are possible. Stones cast upon the water.

With Lee now turning 85, the children wanted to further honor her and Bud's lifelong passion for education and the arts by working with the Department of Art to create something even more enduring. By being able to create a legacy that will allow artists to create and display their works, the stones cast originally by Bud and Lee, and then by their children, can be further cast by the artists themselves, hopefully inspiring all who come in contact with the works. Where that leads, Bud and Lee will never know, but that never was the point. It was always enough to know that by opening opportunities, better lives can be created, leading to a better world. Let the ripples flow.

Past Winners of the Blair H. and Leah D. Temkin Scholarship Award

2004 - Julie Maxine Weitz
2005 - David Teng Olsen
2005 - Kathleen A. O'Connell
2005 - Miel Margarita Paredes
2006 - Benjamin Mason Wooten
2006 - Jennifer Anne Decarlo
2007 - Jessie Irene Eisner-Kleyle
2008 - Zachary Davis Mory
2008 - Stacey Lee Webber
2009 - Dawn R. Turner
2009 - Anna Moisiadas
2009 - Eric Thomas Shows
2009 - Dennis Michael Peterson
2009 - Brandon Scott Norsted
2009 - Naomi Ramona Schliesman
2010 - Sarah Hurtt
2010 - Julie Von der Vellen
2010 - Matt Martin
2010 - Ken Derengowski
2011 - Ginger Ann Lukas
2011 - Justin Roman Maes
2011 - Amelia Evelyn Toelke
2011 - Chinn Wang
2013 - Erica Meyer
2013 - Heather McCalla

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