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Marquette University Alumni Association

J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication Award Recipients

Professional Achievement Award

James R. Keppler and Debbie Schaefer KepplerJAMES R. KEPPLER, SP '79, AND DEBBIE SCHAEFER KEPPLER, JOUR '80
Alexandria, Va.

Jim and Debbie understand the power of a good story, and they act like matchmakers to connect their star-studded list of speakers with organizations in search of a little inspiration.

Just a few years after graduating from Marquette, the couple founded Keppler Speakers, which has since grown into one of the nation’s largest speakers bureaus. With a roster that includes Olympic athletes, astronauts, best-selling authors, politicians and more, they provide speakers for more than 2,000 events a year.

“Making a dollar is one thing, but making a difference is what it is all about,” says Jim, the company’s president. “I try to represent clients whose experience, knowledge and stories can impact lives and organizations, and we try to represent them in a way that lets our expertise and professionalism enhance the experience for the client and the customer.”

The inspiration for Keppler Speakers was born at Marquette.

“The first I had ever heard of this industry was during my tenure on Marquette’s student programming council,” Jim says. “The genesis of my professional success came from my experience at Marquette.”

Debbie has been by his side from the beginning, working as a manager in every department of the company, from marketing to sales to finance.

“For me, success means learning something new every day,” Debbie says. “The world, and my place in it, is constantly changing and evolving. Every single day there is some new challenge to face, sometimes on a personal level and sometimes professionally. It might be something as seemingly trivial as taking a different route to the mall or as intimidating as learning a new piece of software at work. But as long as I face the challenge and learn something from it, I feel that I have succeeded in moving forward.”

Fun facts about Jim:
Hometown: Chicago
Favorite quote: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” — John Lennon
Dream dinner guests: “One perk of my job is the amazing number of celebrities and top-tier achievers I have been able to have dinner with. But it would be very cool to meet Paul McCartney. Not only do I love his music, but I can think of few people in my lifetime who have achieved such a level of success in their field and whose work has brought so much joy to so many people of different ages in all corners of the world.”
Marquette faculty/staff who had an impact: “The late Bob Turner (director of instructional media at the College of Speech and College of Journalism) and Paul Winters (associate director of student activities) were examples of many at Marquette who took an interest in their students as more than just students. They provided opportunities and allowed us to make mistakes and learn from mistakes, enjoy the journey, and emerge from our Marquette experience as better people because of their influence and support.”
Favorite Marquette memory: “Falling in love with my wife.”
Career he aspired to in grade school: “I went through stages where I wanted to be a priest, a teacher, a broadcaster and a politician. Given how quickly each of these stages passed, it is somewhat amazing that I have stayed in my profession as long as I have!”
Most influential person: “My parents, whose example and love taught me everything about finding my way through life, having some laughs along the way and, most important, being a good father.”

Fun facts about Debbie:
Hometown: Parma, Ohio
Favorite quote: “‘You never know what goes on behind closed doors.’ I try very hard to keep this thought in mind each and every day. It can be so easy to make judgments about people and situations, yet unless you are walking in their shoes, you really don’t know what other people are dealing with. Everyone has their crosses to bear, their bridge to cross. Even people who seem to have a perfect life inevitably have issues to deal with. So I think it’s important to not judge others based on only what you can see from your side of the door.”
Dream dinner guest: “Meryl Streep — I have always admired how she has challenged herself as an actress with the roles she has selected and the manner in which she has conducted herself as a celebrity often in the public eye.”
Favorite Marquette memory: “When the men’s basketball team won the NCAA tournament my freshman year and everyone ran all the way down Wisconsin Avenue to Lake Michigan. The excitement, the camaraderie, the sense of belonging to a great community was overwhelming and something I have never forgotten! Oh, and, of course, meeting my husband!”
Career she aspired to in grade school: “I wanted to be a reporter or possibly a graphic designer at a newspaper. I was always an avid reader and grew up in a household where reading the morning paper around the breakfast table was a daily ritual. And I found that I enjoyed putting my thoughts down on paper and gathering facts. So I was thrilled when I was accepted into the College of Journalism at Marquette! My career has taken me in a very different direction, but my Marquette education still provided a solid foundation.”
Most influential person: “My mom. Unfortunately she passed away when I was only 35. But because my siblings were much older than me, I grew up almost like an only child in terms of how much time I was able to spend with her. She was always my biggest cheerleader, my strongest supporter and the person I could talk to about anything. She taught me the value of honesty and hard work and the importance of family, traits that I have tried to pass on to my own children.”