Marquette President Michael Lovell dies

Lovell battled sarcoma, a rare cancer, for 3 years

Michael Lovell
New Marquette University President Michael Lovell Photo: Marquette.edu

Michael Lovell, president of Marquette University in Milwaukee, died while on a trip to Italy, the school announced Sunday.

Lovell, 57, battled sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, for the past three years.

“Together, we pray for President Lovell’s family, especially his wife Amy, his children, and his friends, as well as for all members of our Marquette and Milwaukee communities, as we grieve this immeasurable loss,” the school wrote in a statement.

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Lovell and his wife were in Rome with members of the Society of Jesus and the Board of Trustees on a Jesuit formation pilgrimage when he became ill and was taken to a hospital in Rome, the school said. 

Lovell was hired as Marquette’s first layman president in 2014. Under his leadership, Marquette’s footprint has transformed, with new buildings for business and nursing students and student wellness center. 

“President Lovell’s decade of leadership at Marquette was marked by a deep commitment to innovation, entrepreneurship, and community renewal and development — consistent with the university’s Catholic, Jesuit mission that animated him,” the university said. “An entrepreneur at heart, President Lovell pushed Marquette and Milwaukee to ask what could be rather than settling for the status quo.”

Before arriving at Marquette, Lovell was the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 2011 to 2014 and a renowned engineer focused on the field of tribology, the study of friction and the motion of interacting surfaces by trade.

UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone said Lovell was a dear friend who had a profound influence.

Lovell and Mone worked closely together, forging a close relationship between Milwaukee’s largest higher education institutions. They also both went through cancer treatments at the same time.

“Whether it was working out with students, modeling a positive spirit, planning the next strategic partnership, or inspiring employees with a clear, strong vision for how we could better educate, conduct research, or engage in the community, Mike’s energy and enthusiasm were contagious,” Mone said in a statement. “He was an engaged, highly effective leader who is already missed.”

In a statement Sunday, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said Lovell’s faith and commitment to service went beyond the boundaries of the campus. 

“He was a gentle person who cared deeply about Milwaukee,” Johnson said. “He served our community with distinction. I am greatly saddened by the passing of President Lovell.  My sympathy goes out to his family, to the Marquette community, and to everyone in Milwaukee whose lives were touched by this great man.”

During an April interview with the Marquette Wire, Lovell said he and his wife were planning a trip to Portugal in June to hike through the countryside until they reached Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

“Relationships are often the most important thing in your life,” Lovell said in April. “When you face your own morality, you realize that your relationship with God is right, because you don’t know when your last day is going to be and when it comes you want to make sure that you’re prepared spiritually for what lies next.”

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