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It was 78 years ago that John Morgridge played hooky from his morning kindergarten class with a friend to watch the construction of the building presently home to Wauwatosa East High School.

Morgridge acknowledged to a large crowd at the high school, 7500 Milwaukee Ave., that may not have been the best start to his educational career - it may have been the reason why he was held back a semester later on, he joked.

Morgridge and his wife, Tashia, are 1951 graduates of Wauwatosa East. John is chairman emeritus of Cisco Systems, a worldwide leader in information technology, and Tashia is a retired special education teacher. The pair was featured as keynote speakers at the Wisconsin Public Education Network summer summit, held at Wauwatosa East High School on Aug. 23.

The second annual summit drew more than 350 registrants comprised of parents, students, educators, superintendents, local leaders and elected officials, and featured sessions that focused on topics like school funding, advocacy, legislation and issues facing urban and rural schools. The event was co-sponsored by grassroots, nonpartisan groups Wisconsin Public Education Network and Support Our Schools (SOS) Wauwatosa.

Why Wauwatosa 

The decision to hold the event in Wauwatosa was largely because of the community's support for public schools, said Heather DuBois Bourenane of the Wisconsin Public Education Network.

"The district is a really beautiful example of where parents and educators stand together," said DuBois Bourenane, a member of event's planning committee.

She credited much of that partnership to efforts made by SOS Wauwatosa. The group has advocated widely for public education in recent years by attending public listening sessions with elected officials, writing op/ed pieces for area media and hosting events for the community.

DuBois Bourenane said the summit was fortunate to draw the lineup that it did; in addition to the Morgridges, Wauwatosa Superintendent Phil Ertl, local high school principals Nick Hughes and Frank Calarco and Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers were all scheduled to attend.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach Inc., and a member of the national board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, among other titles, was another keynote speaker.

Roots in Wauwatosa 

The Morgridges just happened to be in town for their 65th high school reunion, making it possible for them to attend the summit, said DuBois Bourenane. The couple is featured on the high school's "Wall of Inspiration" in the cafeteria.

Even though the couple now lives in northern California, they've remained staunch philanthropic supporters of the Wauwatosa community.

"In California, we realized it would be hard to make an impact in a state that large," said Tashia, although the couple has supported initiatives in the state.

The family established the TOSA Foundation in 1992. The foundation supports higher education and K-12 projects and initiatives.

Another notable investment from the couple is the Tosa Pool at Hoyt Park, said Dennis McBride, a city alderman and vice-president of SOS Wauwatosa. In introducing the Morgridges, McBride referred to the couple as "great friends" to their hometown and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, from which they both graduated in 1955. The couple also has supported the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which provides scholarships for Wisconsin high school graduates, among many other contributions.

John Morgridge said that while he spent decades working with computers, education has become his "second career."

DuBois Bourenane said the hosting city for the event in coming years likely will change; last year the summit was held in Middleton.

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