Marquette University alumnus gives $5 million for first-generation student scholarships

Will also support pre-orientation program for multicultural and underrepresented students

Marquette University Alumni Memorial Union
Marquette University Alumni Memorial Union

Last updated on October 9th, 2019 at 12:52 pm

Marquette University alumnus Thomas Werner and his wife Suzanne are donating $5 million to support scholarships for first-generation students at the university.

Tom Werner is chief executive officer of San Jose, California-based global solar company SunPower Corp. A 1986 Marquette graduate, he has served on the university’s board of trustees since 2012.

Suzanne and Tom Werner

The gift will launch The Thomas & Suzanne Werner Endowed Scholars Program for First-Generation Students and will support Ready to Inspire Success and Excellence, Marquette’s new pre-orientation program.

RISE aims to provide multicultural and underrepresented students with additional resources and connections before they begin classes.

“I was very lucky when I grew up,” Tom Werner said. “For me, a college education was expected, and even a given, but that isn’t true for so many young people. As a trustee of Marquette University, this was a great opportunity to give back and to open wider doors for higher education. We are proud that more first-generation and minority students will now have the opportunity to make a significant impact on the world by attending a great institution with tremendous leadership and a strong mission.”

More than 20% of current Marquette students are the first in their family to attend college. The university has also seen undergraduate student diversity nearly double over the past decade, from 15% in 2008 to 28% in 2019.

“Tom and Suzanne’s belief in the mission of Marquette University, our ability to deliver a transformational education and the need to provide access all came together in this incredibly generous gift,” said Michael Lovell, president of Marquette. “Scholarships are a top priority of our strategic plan, Beyond Boundaries, and the Werners’ commitment will forever benefit the lives of future students and their families.”

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.