Department of Intercollegiate Athletics
Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award
Robert E. Harlan, Jour '58, Honorary Degree '97
Bob Harlan wanted be a sports writer but instead became the principal executive of one of the world's most famous professional franchises, the Green Bay Packers.
After serving as student sports editor for the Marquette Tribune and receiving his bachelor's degree in journalism from Marquette, Bob had a short tour of duty in the U.S. Army and reported for United Press International. He returned to Marquette in 1959 as the university's sports information director. Six years later, Bob became director of community relations and public relations for Major League Baseball's St. Louis Cardinals, sharing in the team's 1967 World Series Championship.
In 1971, Bob joined the Packers as assistant general manager and held eight different titles within the organization, including chairman and chief executive officer. During his tenure, the Packers won more games than any other NFL team, including Super Bowl XXXI against the New England Patriots, bringing the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Wisconsin for the first time in 29 years. Bob is the team's chairman emeritus and was inducted into the Packers' Hall of Fame in 2004. His crowning achievement was the $295 million renovation of Lambeau Field, a chief component to assuring the team's financial survival for future generations.
Bob and his wife, Madeline, have always given back. They are honorary co-chairs for a youth drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in Green Bay and a cancer treatment center that soon will open.
"My parents were the most influential people in my life, especially as I was their only child," Bob says. "They held me to high standards, and, quite frankly, I was afraid to mess up."
Bob never did get to be a sports writer. "But you know," he says, "it was a heck of a lot more fun being on the inside than covering the teams from the press box."
Fun facts about Bob
Someone (past or present) he’d like to have dinner with: The Pope