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Colony Brands CEO Baumann named Badger of the Year
Dave Mosher, Monroe, board president of the Wisconsin Alumni Associations Green County chapter, presents John Baumann, Monroe, with the Badger of the Year Award during the Founders Day Celebration at Hawks Mill Winery in Browntown May 3. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
BROWNTOWN - John Baumann, CEO and president of Colony Brands Inc., introduced Mark Markel, the featured speaker of Founder's Day 2018, at Hawk's Mill Winery in Browntown as someone who exemplifies the Wisconsin Idea.

After roughly five friends and family members of Baumann approached the microphone jokingly only to be shooed away by Dave Mosher, president of the Green County UW Alumni Association, Markel described Baumann similarly.

Markel hailed the 1982 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison for Baumann's own goal of personifying the philosophy, which calls for all graduates of the university to ensure the education they received betters their communities and the world.

The featured speaker announced his decades-long friend Baumann as Badger of the Year at the event meant to commemorate the first day of UW classes in February 1849, referring to the businessman's career and character.

"He is the living idea of what the Wisconsin Idea is," said Markel, dean of the UW School of Veterinary Medicine. "John is an amazing man and a good friend, and I am honored to present him this award."

Baumann spoke Wednesday as wind blew against the white coverings keeping the wind and rain out of the sizeable pavilion sitting on the hillside. He explained that though he was born in New Hampshire, "I got here as fast as I could."

When he was finally and officially announced, Baumann received a standing ovation. He then regaled the crowd of more than 70 about his childhood, when his father would rush him and his older brother Bob to Camp Randall stadium in Madison after his shift as dermatology doctor at Monroe Clinic to witness kickoff time.

Baumann noted he and his brothers later developed an affinity for Badger basketball, which provided years of disappointment until recently.

"My, how times have changed," he said.

Baumann earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from UW-Madison. He then received a master's degree from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. He began at the company he currently oversees while still in high school in 1976, then named Swiss Colony. Baumann became president in May 1996.

Markel noted Baumann's active involvement in the UW Foundation Board of Directors, which oversees fundraising and gifts as a nonprofit partner to the university. Baumann and Katie Doyle-Baumann, his wife, established a scholarship fund in early 2017 through a $125,000 donation matched by the UW Nicholas Match fund. Through his connection to the board of directors for the foundation, Baumann knew of the match fund and its potential for helping students.

The John and Katie Baumann Inspiration Project Scholarship Fund, which is specifically dispersed to Monroe High School graduates who plan to attend UW and have demonstrated the need as well as public service, was awarded for the first time last year to Madeline Kuckuk, who is currently a freshman at the university majoring in chemical engineering.

Baumann pointed to Kuckuk and soon-to-be Badger Cheyenne Foster, also a Monroe graduate, as positive examples of the future. Foster, who Baumann referred to as a third daughter, graduated high school seven years ago. From there, she enlisted in the U.S. Marines and served for four years before enrolling at Madison College and maintaining a perfect GPA. She will be attending UW-Madison as a first-year junior in the fall, Baumann noted, after initially having limited financial options post-graduation.

"But what Chey owned in spades was unlimited guts and drive," Baumann said. "When I look at great Badgers of the future, I look at Cheyenne and Maddi as shining examples of what it means to be great Badgers and embrace the Wisconsin Idea."