Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:41 pm

This year, Marquette University High School will celebrate 150 years of educating young men who have gone on to shape Milwaukee’s political power structure and its businesses. The Jesuit, all-boys college preparatory school on the corner of North 34th Street and West Wisconsin Avenue stands tall above its Merrill Park neighborhood. However, the school’s story is more than the brick and mortar that form the landmark structure on the city’s west side. The school’s story is best told by the success of the boys who have opened its doors, walked through its hallways and prayed in its chapel, as they prepared to meet the challenges the world would present.

The list of Marquette graduates includes: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett; Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke; Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and former D.A. E. Michael McCann; multiple municipal and circuit court judges; Peter Bonerz, actor and director on “The Bob Newhart Show” and others; Terry Brennan, University of Notre Dame running back and coach; Rick Majerus, former men’s basketball coach at the University of Utah and current ESPN analyst; Spencer Tracy, Oscar winning actor (attended but did not graduate); Harry Quadracci, founder of Quad/Graphics Inc. in Sussex; James T. Barry III, president and chief executive officer of Colliers Barry, Milwaukee; John Cary, executive director of the MACC Fund, Milwaukee; Ward and Lincoln Fowler, founders of Alterra Coffee Roasters, Milwaukee; Bill Bertha, president of U.S. Bank’s Wisconsin division; John Shiely, president and chief executive officer of Briggs & Stratton Corp., Wauwatosa; Dr. Michael Dunn, senior vice president and dean of Medical College of Wisconsin, Wauwatosa; Jon Greenberg, president of the Milwaukee Admirals hockey team; Dan Meyer, publisher of Small Business Times; and Pat Dunphy, attorney at Cannon & Dunphy S.C., Milwaukee.

“It was the best four years of education I have ever had. It is a fantastic school, Marquette,” said Lincoln Fowler, class of 1989. “I am proud to have gone there. When you look back on your life, and I do, as you accumulate more and more years, you can really tease out and identify experiences that are really markers in your life. Clearly, Marquette is one of those markers of the most significant experiences, and I have been proud to see it continue.”

The Marquette High and Jesuit education model focus on faith, scholarship and community. Marquette educates the whole person by feeding the soul, mind and conscience.

Indeed, the educational experience at Marquette is unique.

Chisholm graduated from Marquette High in 1981 and recently succeeded McCann, who graduated in 1954. Chisholm had the opportunity to perform public service work in high school through internship programs and through the required Senior Shared Life program, in which seniors take two weeks off of school to volunteer full-time in the community.

Marquette High encouraged leadership roles in academics and athletics, and Chisholm said those experiences led him down his career path.

“With the Jesuit model of a commitment to public service and the joy they bring to their work, I could tell they loved what they did and they were very good at it,” Chisholm said. “I think what sets aside good public servants is not those who are looking for glory or power, but those who are looking to make a difference in people’s lives. The reward in itself is the satisfaction of making a positive difference in the community.”

Beacon of life

“As I reflect back on Marquette High, it was the most influential period of my life, it was a time when Marquette High really gave me the understanding of what it means to be a leader with character and compassion,” said Jeff Monday, principal of Messmer Catholic Schools, which includes Messmer Preparatory Catholic School and Messmer High School in Milwaukee. “I look back and really think that Marquette High has guided me throughout my life. My father and grandfathers attended Marquette High, and their experiences were the same.”

Monday graduated from the school in 1984, when Larry Siewert served as principal. Monday distinctly remembers a phrase often shared by Siewert: “We are the community,” meaning that students should not only take care of each other, but be aware of what is going on around them and try to impact the world in positive ways.

In addition to Siewert, Monday said he also was inspired by Fr. Warren Sazama, current president of Marquette High. To this day, Monday carries notes from Sazama’s theology class in his appointment book and looks to those high school class notes for ideas and guidance.

It is no coincidence that so many leaders in the Milwaukee community are Marquette High graduates, Monday said.

“Marquette High stimulates intellectual development, critical thinking, being able to analyze problems but more importantly, it sets a person on the path to really further develop those things,” Monday said.

When Siewert left Marquette University High School, he quickly resurfaced in 1993 as a founder of the Nativity Jesuit Middle School, located on South 29th Street in Milwaukee’s predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. Siewert said he took the values and direction he had learned after spending 28 years in various roles at Marquette High to offer a chance for Latino boys in sixth through eighth grades to get a top-notch education.

“Our mission is education and to produce leaders for the future of this community,” Siewert said. “We say in sixth grade if you give it your best shot, we are going to stay with you for three years for a year-round, all-day, all-night intense program, then place all of our graduates in one of the Milwaukee Catholic schools.”

Siewert currently has 25 middle school graduates attending Marquette High. The boys’ schooling is paid for through fundraising by Nativity Jesuit Middle School and through scholarships offered by the local Catholic high schools. Siewert serves as a mentor to the students, following them through high school and sometimes college.

Greg Meuler, president of Nativity Jesuit Middle School, also previously served as a principal and teacher at Marquette High and joined Siewert in his mission in 2005.

“Education is power, no question about that,” Siewert said. “And the underserved people just need more people who are educated to gain status for the Latino community.”

Their efforts have helped Marquette High to become more diverse. Currently, the Marquette High student body is 21 percent minority and 16 percent non-Catholic.

The Catholic identity is important to Jesuit schools, but the heart and soul of Jesuit educational tradition are the “Spiritual Exercises” of St. Ignatius Loyola, a series of prayers, meditations and considerations that promote reflection and decision, according to the Rev. John Belmonte, current principal of Marquette High.

The Gospel truth

“To introduce young people to God, to preach the Gospel message and to educate young men to be persons for others is central to what we do,” Belmonte said. “And that distinguishes us from other schools because we have this history, we have things like the ‘Spiritual Exercises,’ we have a different way of looking at the world in many ways. One of the sort of Jesuit slogans is, ‘Finding God in all things,’ which is something we would want to impart to our students to have that capacity to see God infused in all creation, that they can find God in all things in their life.”

John Shiely, president and chief executive officer of Briggs & Stratton Corp. in Wauwatosa, took away a full spectrum of values – religious, family, ethical, excellence in education – in addition to taking advantage of leadership opportunities and community involvement while he was at Marquette High. Shiely graduated in 1970 and said his active roles as chairman of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and on the board of the Milwaukee Boys and Girls Club reflect those experiences in high school.

At his company, Shiely is known for implementing a discipline called economic value-added (EVA), which requires employees to understand the value of the money invested by the company.

“In many ways, it is a corporate version of the loaves and fishes, where Jesus took few loaves and few fishes and fed an entire crowd,” Shiely said. “If we invest $2 in something, we have to get $3 out. A lot of that has support in the kind of values that you would get at Marquette High, the values of earning and needing to earn your way.”

Properly representing people who have invested in his company is of utmost importance to Shiely, he said.

“In many ways, a lot of problems we have in corporate America are related to this failure of fiduciary issues,” Shiely said. “People are running companies as if it is their company and their company only, whereas we are all stewards of the capital of our corporations, the same way we are stewards of the assets that God has given us.”

The entrepreneurial spirit of a Marquette High graduate is one of humility and perseverance, Fowler said. Fowler said he followed his older brother, Ward, to Marquette High and appreciated that the Jesuit model did not stifle his independent thinking.

“If I wanted to try or think about something one way, they encouraged us to mentally experience that and be prepared to defend our thought process, which is not disconnected with an entrepreneurial concept,” Fowler said. “People who try to create their own business need to be very confidant to think, solve problems and venture out on their own.”

The Fowler brothers, with Paul Miller, launched Alterra Coffee Roasters in Milwaukee in 1993 and have grown with six café locations throughout the city and three more on the way in 2007.

“They taught a degree of humility at Marquette, although there was a certain level of arrogance (with the success in athletics), they got really serious about the larger community,” Fowler said. “You lived in the sense of needing to serve, give back to the community and they encouraged a sense of community.”

Giving back

Last year, the Fowlers announced their commitment to the Milwaukee community with plans to build a new headquarters in the Riverwest neighborhood.

“I can always be better. We just created a mission and vision statement and part of it recognizes that excellence is illusive. It is something you have to continually challenge yourself for, and there is an element of humility in that statement,” Fowler said.

Greenberg, president of the Milwaukee Admirals hockey team, is using his position in the community to create programs for inner city kids.

The Milwaukee Admirals, for instance, started a reading program with 1,900 children in the area. If the students read for 15 minutes per day, they will get to go to an Admirals game in March.

“You don’t do it for the pats on the back, you don’t do it for any type of recognition, but you do it for yourself and for the people you are helping,” Greenberg said.

Dunphy, a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney, is a Marquette High family legacy. Dunphy graduated high school in 1969, his brother in 1959 and their father in 1927. Dunphy has four sons, three of whom graduated from Marquette High in the 1990s, and the fourth will graduate this May.

“The Jesuit teaching staff and Jesuit philosophy that permeated the school made it a real nurturing place, but a place that was also very receptive to what teenage boys ages 14 to 18 go though,” Dunphy said.

Dunphy said his career path was shaped by his education and experience at Marquette High.

“Personal injury work was a focus where I felt I had a greater opportunity to have an effect on people who needed help,” Dunphy said. “Many people I represent have severe injuries. Some need lifelong medical care and some need help replacing what may have been a significant job that brought income to a family. I am able to help them through a very difficult situation, first emotionally when injury occurs and then over the balance of their lives with helping supply them with hopefully money to replace lost wages and money to help defray future medical bills. It is very gratifying.”

Dedicated staff

Sazama said the future of the school hinges on the continued devotion of its faculty.

Some of the current faculty include Fr. Tom Doyle, director of pastoral and service programs and a part-time teacher who has been with Marquette High for 14 years; Susan Sajdak, the choral director and a fine arts and theology teacher who is in her eighth year; John St. Peter, a theology teacher and Kairos retreat director who has been with the school for 19 years; and Terry Kelly, an English teacher, Senior Shared Life project director, assistant football coach and a track coach in his 27th year with Marquette High.

“The kids really are very gifted, very generous, challenging, highly motivated in many ways,” Doyle said. “It’s a teacher’s dream.”

Sajdak and Doyle said alumni often return during their college winter breaks to reconnect with Marquette High.

“It is all about the students and being able to journey with them in their faith development,” St. Peter said. “The opportunity students have to grow and the teachers are involved in that. They will share deep issues they face in their lives and they will let the teachers in.”

Paul Noack, who recently retired after working in various roles including teacher and coach for 46 years, joked that he cannot go anywhere without running into a Marquette High alum who recognizes him.

“I have always felt that the one thing that makes this school different is the faculty,” Noack said. “They are always willing to give the students the time they need to impact their lives. You can have all of the technology in the world, but if you don’t have a good faculty, you don’t have a good school.”

The celebration

Marquette University High School will mark its 150th anniversary with in-school activities, displays and presentations throughout 2007. The celebration will culminate on July 21 with an open house, a celebratory mass at the Al McGuire Center on Marquette University’s campus and a birthday bash at Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin. The celebration is being chaired by John and Mary Cary. John graduated from Marquette High in 1969 and subsequently worked on the school’s staff, while Mary volunteered for the school after they were first married. Their four sons also attended Marquette High, as did John’s brothers. Alumni from around the world are expected to join together for the school’s celebration.

The Hilltopper Connection

The Rev. Warren Sazama, president of Marquette University High School, is reflecting on the institution’s 150th anniversary in the opposite way most people would. Sazama says he wonders what Milwaukee would be like without Marquette. The following is a conservative roundup of Marquette High graduates currently working for some of Milwaukee’s most prominent companies:

• A.O. Smith Corp. – 23
• AT&T Wisconsin – 51
• Brady Corp. – 9
• Briggs & Stratton Corp. – 35
• Bucyrus International Inc. – 10
• Eaton Corp. – 23
• Foley & Lardner – 41
• Harley-Davidson Inc. – 24
• Johnson Controls Inc. – 44
• Marshall & Ilsley Corp.– 62
• Michael Best & Friedrich – 12
• Miller Brewing Co. – 44
• Journal Communications Inc. – 34
• Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. – 81
• Quad/Graphics Inc. – 28
• Quarles & Brady – 26
• R.W. Baird & Co. Inc. – 48
• Reinhardt Boerner Van Dueren S.C. – 19
• Rockwell Automation Inc. – 37
• U.S. Bank – 15
• Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. – 26
• We Energies – 47

History lesson

A Jesuit education is the foundation of learning at Marquette University High School. Jesuit education was established in 1548, when St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit order, sent nine Jesuits to start a school in Sicily, said Rev. John Belmonte, principal of Marquette High.

St. Ignatius and his group of Jesuit educators instilled order and discipline in a European educational system that was in a state of chaos. They created a centralized prototype school in Sicily and began opening similar operations throughout Western Europe.

The schools had a focus on educating the managerial class, producing leaders for the community. “When a group of people in a European town would say, ‘We want to have a Jesuit school,’ they wanted the Jesuits to come in to come train the next generation of leaders, and that often happened,” Belmonte said. “(Jesuit schools had a) Latin-based curriculum, and individuals had to know Latin to be an academic or to be a professional. Today, there are a lot of Marquette High graduates who are lawyers, important businessmen, doctors; and that has been a pretty typical goal for Jesuit education for a long, long time.”

Marquette University High School was originally formed in 1857 as St. Aloysius Academy on what is now North Third and West Michigan streets. In 1864 a new building was constructed, and the school was renamed St. Gall’s Academy.

Marquette College was established on North 10th and West State streets, on top of a hill, in 1881, and its nickname was the Hilltoppers. Marquette College was a six-year schooling program where students entered at age 14 and graduated with a college diploma at age 20. For the next 20 years, Marquette College experienced steady growth in enrollment and split into two entities in 1907.

Education was divided into the four-year Marquette Academy, later to be named Marquette University High School, and a four-year college, later to be called Marquette University.

In 1922, the academy officially became Marquette University High School, and in 1925, the school settled into its current location at 3401 W. Wisconsin Ave. in the Merrill Park neighborhood of Milwaukee.

Guided by the Jesuits and inspired by its namesake, Fr. Jacques Marquette, the first European to travel through and map the northern portion of Mississippi River, Marquette University High School has created a tradition of community service, perseverance and discovery for its students.

What did you learn in high schoolω

“I think that clearly, Marquette High is very much a place where you learned and dedicated yourself to a certain Catholic moral code that hopefully most graduates practice in business or whatever their endeavors are.”
— James T. Barry III, president and chief executive officer of Colliers Barry, Milwaukee. Class of 1982.

“The school gave me the confidence that I could perform. The students that I attended class with during my freshman year, for example, are probably still the brightest group of students I have ever been in class with.”
— Mayor Tom Barrett, City of Milwaukee. Class of 1972.

“I learned to set long-term goals and to work incrementally toward success. A lot of kids want immediate gratification, and the Jesuits taught you that you get it in the long run by assembling the building blocks academically. It certainly helps when you are trying to get through med school, through a long residency and climb the academic ladder, which I did.”
— Dr. Michael Dunn, dean and executive vice president of the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Class of 1954.

“I feel that aside from my family, nothing has impacted me more in my life, values and faith.”
— John Cary, executive director of the MACC Fund, Milwaukee. Class of 1969.

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