Milwaukee-based Brookby Foundation gifts $1 million for new UWM research vessel

Rendering of the 'Maggi Sue' Great Lakes research vessel, which will replace UWM’s existing vessel, Neeskay.
Rendering of the 'Maggi Sue' Great Lakes research vessel, which will replace UWM’s existing vessel, Neeskay.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has received a $1 million gift from the Milwaukee-based Brookby Foundation to support its School of Freshwater Sciences’ new research vessel.

The new vessel, called the Maggi Sue, will replace UWM’s existing vessel, Neeskay, a 65-year-old converted Army T-boat that the school purchased more than 50 years ago. The new vessel will be the “most advanced research vessel ever built for the Great Lakes,” UWM said, with onboard technology featuring sensors that collect real-time data, interchangeable lab pods that can be swapped out based on the needs of the scientists, and a positioning system that will keep the vessel in place despite currents, wind and waves.

The Brookby Foundation, founded by Wendy and Paul Greeney, supports artistic and scientific literacy, with a special interest in endeavors that protect or improve the environment. Paul retired as a teacher and science department chair at the University School of Milwaukee in 2011.

“We believe in making a difference where we can,” Wendy and Paul Greeney said in a statement. “That is why we have chosen to make a gift that will advance research and help protect Lake Michigan and all of the Great Lakes. We have a deep appreciation for science, and it’s the responsibility of us all to make the world a better place. Support for the research vessel is how we’re choosing to do that.”

Previously, the Brookby Foundation supported the School of Freshwater Sciences’ Center for Water Policy faculty, helped establish the school’s outreach office and established the Brookby Scholarships in Water Science Literacy.

“I am deeply grateful to our friends at the Brookby Foundation for their visionary support of our world’s most precious resource: fresh water,” UWM Chancellor Mark Mone said. “Tens of millions of people rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water, employment, energy production, shipping needs and recreational activities. These bodies of water have a profound effect on our economy and quality of life. The Brookby Foundation has stepped up to help preserve this precious natural resource.”

The School of Freshwater Sciences has raised over $13 million toward its $20 million goal to launch the Maggi Sue, including a $10 million lead gift from an anonymous Greater Milwaukee Foundation donor in late 2019.

Once fundraising is complete, it will take roughly two years to build the Maggie Sue. It will be the largest 100% privately funded capital project in UWM’s history.

The new vessel will provide hands-on research opportunities for students and will feature wet and dry lab spaces for onboard experiments, a classroom and data visualization lab that will accommodate groups of students of all ages and sleeping accommodations that will allow scientists and crew to remain on the water for longer periods of time.

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