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Marquette University Alumni Association

Mary Ellen Bolger Stanek, Arts '78

Mary Ellen Bolger Stanek, Arts '78

Alumna of the Year Award

All-University Award Recipients

Alumna of the Year Award

Mary Ellen Bolger Stanek, Arts '78

Mary Ellen Stanek has managed to balance a demanding career in high finance with her family and a wealth of charitable commitments, rising rapidly to key leadership roles professionally and in the community.

Mary Ellen grew up working summer breaks in the suburban Chicago community bank where her father was president. After graduating magna cum laude from Marquette, she took an entry-level position at First Wisconsin Trust Co. Within five years, she held the top fixed income position — along with an M.B.A.

Later, Mary Ellen moved to Robert W. Baird & Co., launching Baird Advisors. Today, as managing director and director of asset management for Baird and president of Baird Funds, she leads a team that manages more than $15 billion in fixed income assets and serves on Baird's board and executive committee.

But Mary Ellen remains grounded. "You have a choice about your attitude," she says. "You have to be able to laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously."

One thing Mary Ellen does take seriously is her commitment to the community. She's a leading board member with local nonprofits, including Aurora Health Care, Boys & Girls Clubs (past board chair), Children's Hospital Foundation, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Junior Achievement, Betty Brinn Children's Museum (past president), and United Way, for whom she co-chaired a 2008 fundraising campaign that exceeded its goal. She also has co-chaired the annual campaign for the United Performing Arts Fund.

Recognized as a national pioneer in structured fixed income investing, Mary Ellen was named a top woman portfolio manager by Morningstar in 2008 and is a leader in Milwaukee's financial community. She serves on the corporate boards of Journal Communications, Northwestern Mutual and West Bend Mutual Insurance Co., helping to guide other leading Milwaukee-area companies. Mary Ellen has been honored with the Business Journal of Milwaukee's Women of Influence Award and the Wisconsin Business Hall of Fame Distinguished Executive Award. Additional honors include the St. Francis Children's Service Award, Tempo Mentor Award, Point of Light Award, Professional Dimensions Sacagawea Award and Baird's Brenton H. Rupple Citizenship Award.

Mary Ellen also has been a pioneer at Marquette, as well. In 2006, she became the first woman to chair the Board of Trustees in the more than 100 years since Marquette first started accepting female students, serving through 2009. She remains a member of the Board.

As a student at Marquette, Mary Ellen was a member of student government and the honor societies Alpha Sigma Nu and Phi Beta Kappa. It was also at Marquette that she met her husband, Scott Stanek, D.D.S., Arts '77, Dent '82. Mary Ellen and Scott's uncommonly strong connection to Marquette includes 15 family members who hold 20 Marquette degrees. Their son, Peter, is a student in the School of Dentistry, and their daughter, Katie, is a student in the College of Business Administration. Their youngest son, Patrick, is a junior at Marquette University High School.

"Milwaukee can't have enough Mary Ellen Staneks," says Marquette Board of Trustees Chairman Darren Jackson. "What Mary Ellen embodies is leadership."

For Mary Ellen, it's leadership by example, guided by a principle she learned very early in life. "My best advice as a manager came from my mom," Mary Ellen says. "She always told me to treat others the way you'd want to be treated yourself."