Milwaukee Magazine Colleagues Remember Publishing Icon Betty Quadracci

Dec 11, 2013

Milwaukee Magazine president Betty Quadracci has died. She was 75.
Credit Kevin J. Miyazaki/Milwaukee Magazine

Milwaukee Magazine president and publishing icon Betty Quadracci died on Monday night. She was 75.

Quadracci co-founded the printing company Quad/Graphics with her late husband Harry in 1971.  The company purchased Milwaukee Magazine in the 1980s, and Quadracci served as its publisher until earlier this year.

Milwaukee Magazine's chief editor Kurt Chandler says Quadracci wanted to make sure her publication wasn't just another city magazine.

"She wanted to make a difference in town," he says. "She wanted to be involved in issues of the day. She wanted to promote the arts. She wanted to understand and profile people who were driving the city."

Chandler worked for years with Quadracci and characterized her as a "challenging" but "inspiring" boss.

"She was challenging. She was direct and she was also very charming, and she could win you over to her ideas and her commitment and devotion to issues and really quality work," he says.

Ann Christenson, senior editor and dining critic at the magazine, remembers Quadracci for her hands-on approach at the magazine, but says she never pushed an agenda.

That said, Quadracci never backed down from having the magazine cover hard-hitting issues, Chandler says, even when some of those stories may have caused her embarrassment among her influential circle of friends.

"She had our back and that was important, that's what made the magazine as tough and strong and courageous as Betty was," he says.

Quadracci also had a lighter side, Christenson remembers.

"She was incredibly playful, and she always wanted to know where she could get a good burger, which seems really odd when you think about it, but this woman loved a good hamburger," she says.

While Quadracci was well-known for her role in the publishing industry, she is also being remembered for work as a philanthropist and as an educator. she was just as involved as a philanthropist and as an educator.

Known for "getting her hands dirty," in Chandler's words, she founded the Waukesha Montessori School in 1965 and helped create Waukesha’s Head Start program three years later. She was also dedicated to the arts, sitting on the boards of the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Milwaukee Rep.

Chandler says Quadracci's legacy is in the way she shaped Milwaukee Magazine and influenced various civic institutions around town.

"I have no doubt that the magazine will continue on doing the quality work that she guided us toward, even though she's gone," he says.

A special edition of the magazine honoring Quadracci will be published in February.