Julia and Bladen Burns to Receive Leadership Award 

Milwaukee, March 25, 2022 – Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, two-time Tony Award nominee, novelist, and screenwriter, Ayad Akhtar will provide the keynote address for the Wauwatosa Public Library Foundation’s Leadership Event at the Sonesta Milwaukee West Hotel on Thursday, March 31.

Novelist and playwright Ayad Akhtar’s work has been published and performed in over two dozen languages. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, he received an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Ayad is the author of the novels Homeland Elegies and American Dervish. As a playwright, he has written Junk, Disgraced, The Who & The What and The Invisible Hand. Brown and Columbia University educated, Ayad is a graduate of Brookfield Central High School. The Milwaukee Repertory Theater has partnered with Akhtar to stage several of his plays including the Pulitzer Prize winning Disgraced.

Joined onstage by host, Joy Powers, from WUWM 89.7’s Lake Effect, this annual event, which draws hundreds of attendees, is a celebration of the important role the Library plays in the Wauwatosa community and features nationally recognized authors whose writings address compelling current topics. The event also honors area high school students and adults whose leadership has had a positive impact on Wauwatosa.

Receiving the Student Leadership Awards this year are Megan Kelroy, Divine Savior Holy Angels High School; Donald (Trey) Cotey III, Marquette University High School; Casey Brophey, Pius XI High School; Aubrey “Chandler” Tribble, Wauwatosa East High School; Olivia Veit, Wauwatosa West High School; and Nora Stroh, Wisconsin Lutheran High School. 

The Arthur B. Kohasky Leadership Award will be given to Julia and Bladen Burns for their support for youth development. Their oldest son’s interest in music and theater introduced Julia and Bladen to First Stage which they supported as patrons, donors, and co-chairs of the Make Believe Ball. The Burns’ also co-chaired the Milwaukee Rep Gala and Bladen currently serves as a Rep trustee and a member of the executive committee. Bladen also serves on the investment committee of the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, is a director of the Cedar Street Foundation, and a board member of Bridge to Brighter. Bladen coached baseball for ten years and served on the board of the North Central Little League. Julia coached Destination Imagination (DI) teams and managed the DI program at Washington Elementary School where their children attended. Her involvement with DI was one of the sparks that led to co-founding a public charter high school in Milwaukee called Pathways High, authorized by UW-Milwaukee and currently serving 150 students from the city and surrounding suburbs.

Past Keynote Speakers include Joan Biskupic, Bob Woodward, Ron Chernow, Isabella Wilkerson, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Erik Larsen, Bud Selig, Tracy Kidder, Steve Rushin, Robert Ballard, James Brady, David Eagleman, Jeremy Scahill, Jordan Ellenberg, Lee Eisenberg, Bob Gleeson, David Marannis, Michael Cudahy and David Grann.

Past Leadership Award winners include Members of the Wauwatosa School District Medica/Public Health Advisory Panel, Chris Foley, Don Layden, Ray Perry, Peggy Rosenzweig, Tim Winn, Ann and Craig Larson, Jon Vice, Mary Ellen Stanek, Denise Lindberg, Joe and Jennifer Bartolotta, Michael McCrea, Caroline Krider, Clare Fiorenza, John Kissinger, Mary Newton and John Sanger, Chris Leffler, Jeff Roznowski and Mike Hoefgen.

PRESNTING SPONSOR: Beth Jaworski, Shorewest Realtors; PRESENTING STUDENT SPONSOR: Irgens; AWARD SPONSOR: Meijer; GOLD SPONSORS: A.O. Smith Corporation, Baird, U.S. Bank, Fiduciary Management Group, Linda & Michael Groth, Julia & Bladen Burns; SILVER SPONSORS: Betsy & Jim DuCanto, The Lowe Group, Tosa Pediatrics; BRONZE SPONSORS: Reavis Family LLC

For ticket information, call (414) 471-8487. 

About the Wauwatosa Public Library Foundation

The Wauwatosa Public Library Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization that supports the Wauwatosa Public Library. The group’s Board of Directors includes Michael Anich, Maureen Badding, Sharon deGuzman, Elizabeth DuCanto, Linda Groth, Lauren Hill, Michael Hodan, Brian Holtz, Peter Holtz; Scott Krahn, Jody Lowe, Michael Reardon, Erin M. Stanek, Maureen Stern, Pamela Stokke-Ceci and Ann Woelfel.