Friend of the University Award
Senator Kohl made education a top priority during his more than two decades of public service. His work as an advocate for Marquette is a significant example of that commitment.
Throughout his career, Senator Kohl consistently supported the priorities of his constituents in Wisconsin and worked tirelessly to bring federal funding back to the state to advance those priorities. He recognized the value of public-private partnerships to the community and believed that establishing such partnerships with Marquette would benefit the entire state.
“For more than a century, Marquette University has not only prepared and challenged students to ‘be the difference,’ but it has led by example with high standards, strong values and commitment to service here in the heart of our city,” he says. “Their students, faculty, employees, alumni, partners and neighbors are all part of the Marquette tradition of transformation that surrounds us — in city blocks and rural communities, board rooms and classrooms, individual lives, as well as newfound families, and ultimately all the hearts and minds they touch.”
When Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J., became Marquette’s president in 1996, one of the first meetings he had was with Senator Kohl. There, the Senator pledged to do all he could to support the university.
Senator Kohl led the way on federal appropriations for the construction of a new facility for Marquette’s School of Dentistry, a critical step to expand educational opportunities at the state’s only dental school. Subsequent funding allowed Marquette’s dental school to expand its community service initiatives, most notably a rural outreach program that brings critical oral health care services to many of Wisconsin’s underserved communities.
Senator Kohl’s wide-ranging efforts to make education more accessible paved the way for more students to attend Marquette, voting to protect federal funding for student financial aid programs. He also supported federal funding for university research and improvements that directly benefitted the university, from reconstruction of the Marquette Interchange to restoration efforts in the Menomonee Valley. Even many of the trees on campus are part of his legacy, as are the students who got a first-hand look at public service through working or interning at his office.
Senator Kohl remains a close friend of Father Wild today, and his lifelong love of basketball included a close friendship with the late Al McGuire.
Senator Kohl became Wisconsin’s 25th U.S. senator in 1988 and went on to serve four terms in office. Having decided not to seek re-election, Senator Kohl completed 24 years of public service at the end of 2012.
A Milwaukee native who grew up in the Sherman Park neighborhood, Senator Kohl has maintained a lifetime commitment to his home city and state. From 1959–69, he served in many capacities with the then-family-owned Kohl Corp., operators of grocery and department stores. Senator Kohl purchased the NBA's Bucks in 1985, ensuring that the team would remain in Milwaukee. On April 16, he announced that he had entered into an agreement to sell the team to two New York investors who pledged to keep the team in Milwaukee and committed a $100 million gift toward a new facility.
His parents built their first Kohl’s Food Market in the late 1920s and grew the business into one of the Midwest’s leading grocery and department store chains. Senator Kohl was president from 1970 through the family’s decision to sell the corporation in 1979.
Through a wide range of community-minded projects, Senator Kohl has championed the cause of education. He established the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation Excellence Scholarship and Fellowship Award Program in 1990. As of August 2013, the foundation has awarded $8.6 million to Wisconsin educators, students and schools.