UWM receives $10 million gift for new Great Lakes research vessel

Among the largest gifts in school's history

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.

Last updated on November 7th, 2019 at 12:55 pm

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has received a $10 million anonymous gift to construct a new research vessel for its School of Freshwater Sciences.

The gift, made by an anonymous donor of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, is among the largest in the school’s history. The university has previously received two $10 million donations from Sheldon and Marianne Lubar, and a $10 million gift from Joseph Zilber.

The new vessel, which will be named the ‘Maggi Sue’ in honor of the donation, will replace UWM’s existing vessel, Neeskay, a 65-year-old converted Army T-boat. UWM purchased the 71-foot Neeskay in 1970.

“This gift will transform UWM’s efforts to protect the Great Lakes, our nation’s largest freshwater resource,” said Mark Mone, UWM chancellor. “More than 40 million people rely on the Great Lakes for clean drinking water, and this vessel will give us the technological platform necessary to advance our scientific understanding of these bodies of water to help us address our most pressing problems. I am profoundly grateful for our donor’s vision and willingness to lead this effort to steward our water.”

UWM’s existing vessel, Neeskay,is a 65-year-old converted Army T-boat.

The university plans to raise a total of $20 million for the project, including $15 million to construct the vessel and a $5 million endowment. Mone said the university has raised about $12 million to date, including the lead gift.

“This gift has such catalytic power, not only for helping drive the research enterprise at UWM, but in further signaling Milwaukee is a city capable of leveraging its unique resources for economic, educational and ecological benefits,” said Ellen Gilligan, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “I applaud our anonymous donor’s remarkable commitment to freshwater science in giving UWM the leading-edge tools needed to better understand and protect our Great Lakes.”

The Maggi Sue will measure 120 feet in length and include onboard technology that UWM officials say will open new research opportunities and increase scientists’ ability to understand, explore and manage freshwater resources.

The vessel will feature sensors that collect real-time data, interchangeable lab pods that can be switched out, and a dynamic positioning system that allows the vessel to stay in one place despite the current, wind and waves, UWM said.

The lab spaces will allow scientists to conduct experiments on the water. The vessel will also have classrooms that will host university and K-12 students.

The Maggi Sue will also have sleeping accommodations for up to 18 people, which will allow scientists and crew members to remain on the water for longer periods of time.

Mone said the new vessel will also be a key tool used by the recently-launched UWM-led Freshwater Collaborative, a statewide pilot program that has all UW System campuses working together on various freshwater challenges.

Val Klump, dean of the School of Freshwater Sciences, said the new vessel will allow the school to research and find solutions to several threats to the Great Lakes, such as growing dead zones in Green Bay, oscillating water levels and runoff and contaminants.

“The Maggi Sue will give us the means to gain a clear and up-close picture of the challenges facing the Great Lakes and help us go further in generating solutions to these problems,” Klump said. “I am so thankful to this donor for taking the lead role in seeing this vessel become a reality.”

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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.