Zeb Madison B'97

An Exchange with Zeb Madison, Bellarmine's Former Board Chair,
Q: Tell me about yourself?
 Well, I wear many hats – husband, father, lawyer, and now Bellarmine Board Chair. My wife, Morgan, is also a Bellarmine graduate and together we own a law firm in the Proctor District that serves families by providing estate planning guidance and litigating related issues. In February of 2020, we welcomed our first child into the world, a daughter named Gigi Marie – the light of our lives.
Beyond that, I am a proud Tacoma native with a large extended family and deep ties to the community. After graduating from Bellarmine in 1997, I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Washington, and later attended law school at both Gonzaga University and Seattle University. Prior to founding our law firm, I spent 15 years in public service following an appointment as Assistant Attorney General.
Q: How did Bellarmine prepare you for your life and career?
Outside of family, Bellarmine was the single greatest influence on my life, both personally and professionally. It provided everything I consider fundamental to my development and success – mentors and role models, intellectual curiosity, exposure to the world around me, and a sense of community. Coaches were men of character who modeled servant leadership. Jesuits cemented a spiritual foundation. Teachers saw something in me I did not always see in myself. Even parents of classmates offered a window into a world that was previously unknown to me – a view of the rewards made possible by hard work and fortitude. And my Bellarmine experience continues to shape me in ways that still reveal themselves today.
Q: What inspired you to get involved with Bellarmine again after graduating?
My first involvement with Bellarmine as an adult was spurred in large part by a debt of gratitude. When I speak about Bellarmine, and its impact on my life, I constantly remind people that my Bellarmine education was made possible by the generosity of its donors. I was raised by a single mom with modest means and, while she made immense sacrifices to send me to Bellarmine, we were always mindful that it was our commitment paired with the benevolence of others that opened the door for me. I always felt an obligation to repay that gift. Over time, my wife and I have made Bellarmine the charitable focus for our family – both in terms of time and treasure – because we believe in the power of a Jesuit education and the fact that it can buoy all of the other causes that are important to us. The world needs Bellarmine graduates now more than ever before.
Q: How have you stayed involved?
My service began over a decade ago with a group of other graduates who shared a vision for the relationship between the school and its alumni. That work was always the thing I was most passionate about, and it still influences the way I view many of the issues facing the Board. After five years leading that group, I took part in my first major capital campaign for the school as a committee member raising money to erect the Connelly Campus Center. In 2015, I was invited to join the Board of Directors where I spent two years overseeing the Development Committee, two years serving as Vice Chair, and now begin my tenure as Board Chair.
Q: As the new Board Chair, what is the biggest issue facing the Board this year?
If the past two years have taught us anything, it is just how quickly plans can change and that grand ambitions may be set aside in lieu of simply keeping the institution operable. So, when thinking about the biggest issue facing the Board I think it is imperative to have a dual-track mentality. There are the short-term big issues posed by something like another COVID disruption, but there are also the long-term big issues that are front of mind for me. When it comes to the latter, I believe our biggest threat is the viability of our current business model – rising operational costs could eventually outpace sustainable tuition increases. I am focused on what the Board can do to support efforts to ensure cost never becomes a barrier to attendance. There is not a singular solution. Rather, it will be some combination of remaining good stewards of our resources, identifying efficiencies, exploring alternative sources of revenue, and, perhaps most importantly, growing our endowment fund.
Q: What is the number one goal you’d like to accomplish while in this position? Is there anything related to the current work of the Board that you would like to share with the community?
I already spoke about ensuring Bellarmine remains accessible to all families, regardless of their economic circumstance. That will always be my primary focus. But beyond that, and frankly in furtherance of it, I have a strong interest in celebrating the immersive community that is Bellarmine. For generations, Bellarmine has been so much more than a four-year college preparatory. To many of our students, parents, benefactors, and alumni it represents a lifelong relationship marked by social interaction, spiritual connection, professional networking, and philanthropy. Some combination of Jesuit charism, geography, and tradition have conspired to form this uniquely Bellarmine experience. And instead of treating that as a byproduct or mere happenstance, my hope is that as a school we continue to find ways to acknowledge it, harness it, and cultivate it.
I am optimistic this vision will be animated through the work of two new ad hoc committees of the Board that were created this year – the Alumni Committee and the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee. The Alumni Committee will focus on meaningful engagement opportunities for alumni while the DEI Committee will help the Board view its work through a lens that allows for greater participation and leadership that more wholly reflects the community we serve. Collectively, these committees will add to the richness of our work.
Q: What advice do you have for other alumni looking to give back to Bellarmine?
Reach out. We will find an avenue that suits your interests, tailored to meet your capacity. From committees that support the Board’s efforts, to social gatherings, spiritual retreats with the students, service projects, and mentorship programs, there are countless volunteer opportunities. And while the school directly benefits from your involvement, you will likely find the personal fulfillment is its own reward.
Q: Anything additional you would like to share?
Serving as Board Chair is one of the great honors of my life and I will work tirelessly to further our mission. We are entering an important window for Bellarmine: navigating a post-pandemic educational environment; embarking on an endowment campaign to secure financial stability; and crafting a strategic plan that will guide the direction of the school for many years to come. The success of those efforts will hinge on our ability to work collaboratively – students, parents, faculty and staff, board members, benefactors, and alumni – toward our common goal. I want to thank the entire Bellarmine community for being partners in this important work.