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Marquette University President Michael Lovell dies while abroad

Michael Lovell, President of Marquette University, died while on a trip to Italy, the university announced Sunday.
Michael Lovell
Posted at 4:58 PM, Jun 09, 2024

MILWAUKEE — Michael Lovell, President of Marquette University, died while on a trip to Italy, the university announced Sunday.

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

According to a statement from Marquette University, Lovell and his wife were in Rome with members of the Society of Jesus and the Marquette University Board of Trustees on a Jesuit formation pilgrimage.

He fell ill and was taken to a hospital.

Lovell came to Marquette in 2014 when he made history as the university’s first-ever lay president. The 23 Marquette presidents before Lovell were all Jesuits.

Michael Lovell
Marquette University President Michael Lovell seen at an event.

“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,” said a statement from several university leaders.

Throughout his time at Marquette, Lovell left his stamp on the university, transforming its’ strategic plan while remaining active as a professor in the classroom.

“Throughout his presidency, he attended hundreds of campus events each year and continued to teach undergraduate students in his product realization class,” a Marquette University statement read.

His legacy in Milwaukee goes far beyond Marquette University.

Before Marquette, President Lovell served as the chancellor for the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and before that, as a dean of its engineering college.

A recognized engineering scholar, Lovell held several academic and research leadership positions at universities across the country and has published more than 100 articles in leading engineering journals.

Aside from leadership, his own research in the field has led to several technological breakthroughs.

According to Marquette, he holds seven patents, 14 provisional patents, and was formally inducted into the National Academy of Inventors.

A dedicated fixture of the Milwaukee community, President Lovell served on numerous boards and executive committees including the Higher Education Regional Alliance, the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and the Big East Conference.

Even with all of his involvement in Milwaukee, his faith and family remained an important part of his life.

Lovell leaves behind a wife, Amy Lovell, and four children.

After receiving his diagnosis, Lovell and his wife became advocates for sarcoma research and awareness.

"When you just look at the man, you know he’s going through treatment and yet still stood up strong. He was like 'Yes I have cancer but I’m living my life'," Dr. Colleen Lawton, a friend and Marquette alum, shared.

Dr. Colleen Lawton
Dr. Colleen Lawton, Marquette Alum ‘79. She just retired, but was an oncologist for years. Her husband is on Marquette’s Board of Directors and they’re close with Lovell and his wife. She tells me they’ve been huge advocates for people living with Sarcoma.“His kindness, his faith, he was a prince of a man."

In 2023, the Lovells helped raise more than $300,000 for the organization Stronger Than Sarcoma.

He also participated in the Race to Cure Sarcoma in 2022 and 2023, raising more than $9,000 for the Sarcoma Foundation of America.

"He gave hope for many people with cancer, even unusual ones," Lawton said.

Marquette University said support and resources are available for the campus community through Campus Ministry, the Faber Center, the Counseling Center, and the Employee Assistance Program.

A campus prayer vigil is being planned and funeral arrangements will be shared in Marquette Today when they are available.

Here are some of the statements from community leaders and groups:

This is a developing story.

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