Marquette University

06/18/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/18/2024 13:08

Marquette remembers the life of President Michael R. Lovell

Marquette remembers the life of President Michael R. Lovell

  • June 18, 2024
  • 7min. read

Our Marquette University community grieves the loss of Dr. Michael R. Lovell, who passed away June 9 while in Rome with his wife, Amy, members of the Society of Jesus and the Board of Trustees on a Jesuit formation pilgrimage. For the past three years, President Lovell had been battling sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

President Lovell was the 24th president in Marquette's 143-year history and first lay person to lead the university. The theme of his September 19, 2014, inauguration on September 19 - "Ignited in Faith. Alive in Inquiry. Forward in Service." - reflected the true hallmarks of how President Lovell engaged with others, explored new ideas, determined priorities and collaborated across the university and wider community to create growth and improvements that would benefit as many lives as possible.

"The Marquette University community - students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends alike - grieve the passing of Mike Lovell, who was a dynamic, innovative and mission-oriented leader," said Todd Adams, chair of the Marquette Board of Trustees and chairman and CEO of Zurn Elkay Water Solutions. "On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I share our deepest sympathy with Amy Lovell and the Lovell family. Mike was an incredible man who inspired all who knew him, and his legacy will impact Marquette University for generations to come."

A recent Marquette Magazine article shared how President Lovell infused a spirit of innovation and collaboration into our campus and community over the last decade. A nationally recognized higher education leader, President Lovell was widely known for his focus on student success and access, innovation, entrepreneurship, and community renewal and development - all consistent with the university's Catholic, Jesuit mission.

Prior to Marquette, President Lovell served the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as chancellor (2011-2014) and, earlier, dean of its engineering college (2008-2011). He previously held academic and research leadership positions at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Kentucky.

Bringing an inventor's spirit to Marquette

An engineer at heart and by trade, President Lovell earned three mechanical engineering degrees from the University of Pittsburgh. He received awards from the National Science Foundation, Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and numerous other organizations; was a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and National Academy of Inventors; and held U.S. and global patents.

President Lovell understood the importance of research and development, having been an accomplished researcher and inventor himself, and set ambitious goals for Marquette early in his tenure. Since then, the university has more than doubled its R&D expenditures, reporting an institutional record $47.8 million in R&D expenditures in 2023.

He also cared about providing more pathways for people to explore their big ideas and have meaningful support in those pursuits. Early in his presidency, he launched the Explorer Challenge (formerly the Strategic Innovation Fund), which invited Marquette students, faculty and staff to submit proposals for innovative projects that would make an impact and advance Marquette's strategic initiatives.

President Lovell believed more could be accomplished when combining expertise instead of competing and sought partnerships with the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and Johnson Controls to create the President's and Chancellor's Challenge, a seed grant program that provides funding for innovative, interdisciplinary, collaborative work that addresses critical issues and opportunities facing the city of Milwaukee.

With an eye on the future, particularly higher education's headwinds, President Lovell ensured the university's strategic plan aligned with institutional strengths and mission. The resulting Guided by Mission, Inspired to Change strategic plan unveiled in 2023 was a product of campuswide discernment, exploration and collaboration.

Faith in action

President Lovell cherished his Catholic faith, which animated every aspect of his life, including as a parent to four beloved adult children, as well as his enduring service to Marquette. At his introductory press conference in 2014, President Lovell shared, "my faith has always served as a cornerstone in my life and having the ability to openly practice my religious beliefs in my professional career is something I have always wanted to do."

As part of an Ignatian spiritual formation program, he created the Marquette Sacred Spaces Pilgrimage to highlight 12 of the university's iconic chapels, works of art and sacred spaces on campus. The pilgrimage offers the opportunity for prayer and contemplation and can be experienced in person and virtually.

"As Marquette's first lay president, Dr. Michael Lovell's dedication to the ideals of a Catholic, Jesuit education meant that every student was given the opportunity to partake of the richness of a 500-year tradition of excellence," said Rev. Karl Kiser, S.J., provincial of the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus. "He also carried a deeply pragmatic understanding of what was needed to adapt to the changing landscape of higher education at this time in history. He entered Marquette at the right moment, when the cultural called institutions to understand the need to acknowledge the new generation and to affirm them with openness and illumination. As we join in thanksgiving for Mike's life and his tireless work on behalf of Marquette University, let us pray for the MU community, and especially that God holds Amy and their family in his loving embrace."

President Lovell was committed to Marquette's mission of serving its community and made it a priority to collaborate with business and community leaders in Marquette's neighborhood. He helped create the Near West Side Partners, a collaborative nonprofit organization comprising other area anchor institutions focused on strengthening economic development, housing, neighborhood identity and safety. He also played a key role in launching several other important initiatives in Milwaukee, including the Midwest Energy Research Consortium, The Commons, Scale-Up Milwaukee, The Water Council and the Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute.

Together with his wife, Amy, President Lovell co-founded Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee (SWIM), a community-wide effort addressing the impacts of generational trauma. The organization drives community-based collaboration to help prevent and respond to trauma and create a resilient Milwaukee. President Lovell and Amy were named the 2018 Community Leaders of the Year by BizTimes Milwaukee for their commitment to building a healthier, more productive Milwaukee.

A champion of Milwaukee and education

Returning to his roots in the classroom, President Lovell co-taught Marquette's Product Realization course, which brings together engineering and communication students to design products in response to local companies' needs, on four occasions.

Under his leadership, the university's historic Time to Rise campaign surpassed its $750 million goal and emphasized students and scholarship. He championed funding for transformational projects, including Dr. E. J. and Margaret O'Brien Hall, the Lemonis Center for Student Success and the Wellness + Helfaer Recreation facility. The projects position Marquette as a leader in supporting the academic, physical, mental and spiritual health of all students, as well as their career aspirations - key elements of the campaign. 

In addition to serving on the boards of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, The Water Council, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, Milwaukee Film, and the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars, President Lovell was a member of the executive committees of the Higher Education Regional Alliance and the Big East Conference. He co-chaired the Council on Competitiveness's University Leadership Forum and the Wisconsin Chapter of CEOs Against Cancer, a program of the American Cancer Society.

President Lovell's passion for and commitment to Milwaukee and Wisconsin were recognized by numerous organizations. He was the recipient of the 2022 Dr. Wesley L. Scott Education Award from the Greater Milwaukee Urban League and the 2018 United Community Center Friend of the Hispanic Community award. President Lovell also was named to the 2022 Wisconsin's Most Influential Business Leaders list by BizTimes Milwaukee. President and Amy Lovell were awarded honorary Doctor of Humanities degrees from the Medical College of Wisconsin in May 2024.

The campus community has gathered to grieve and honor President Lovell's life and legacy. Messages have been shared on ribbons affixed to a cross and in two books of remembrance. Milwaukee has joined in mourning President Lovell's loss, with buildings lit up throughout the city.

A man for and with others

Of all his accomplishments and roles, our community will remember President Lovell most for his genuine enjoyment of the many wonderful things happening on campus - from helping plant in the pop-up prairie to sampling the newest beer and coffee from the Blue & Gold Brewing team to participating in the Alpha Sigma Nu Hot Wings Challenge to taking photographs with graduating students at the St. Joan of Arc Chapel and so many more unique experiences that define Marquette. Interactions with students, faculty and staff, numbering more than 240 each academic year, energized him. He attended hundreds of events on campus each year and enjoyed dropping in on classes and events to see the spirit of Marquette in action through what made the university so special - its people.

President Lovell faithfully cheered on the Golden Eagles athletic teams at most home events. He celebrated our student-athletes' successes on the courts and fields, and in the classroom.

President Lovell loved to welcome new students with breakfast on move-in day, join in singing carols at the annual Christmas tree lighting and serve donuts on the Raynor Bridge to students studying for finals. Of all the special things at Marquette, however, nothing was more meaningful to him than Commencement. Time and time again, President Lovell shared how much it meant to see the joy of students and their families celebrating important accomplishments together. It was a testament to the expertise, thoughtfulness and support Marquette faculty and staff brought to their work each day and the creativity, resourcefulness and hard work of our students.

It wasn't just in campus spaces where President Lovell connected with members of the Marquette community. Students, faculty, staff and alumni joined him on runs across campus and throughout Milwaukee and, in bad weather, inside the dome at the Valley Fields complex.

When President Lovell shared news of his sarcoma diagnosis with the Marquette community in 2021, he concluded his message with these words: "Know how much I love Marquette and how grateful I am to have each of you as part of our community."

President Lovell truly loved Marquette, and Marquette loved him back.

The entire university community mourns with and prays for the Lovell family as we remember the incredible impact President Lovell had on our lives and how much he wanted to see others shine. His passing is an enormous loss, and he leaves an inspiring legacy.

Eternal rest grant unto Michael, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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