May 4, 2007
Marquette University Law School receives $51 million gift
An alumni couple will donate $51 million to Marquette University toward construction of a new Law School facility, Marquette President Robert A. Wild, S.J., announced today. The donation is the largest gift ever made by individuals to a Wisconsin college or university, and is one of the largest ever to a law school in the United States.
Raymond A. and Kathryn A. Eckstein of Cassville, Wis., and Boca Raton, Fla., made the gift as an “expression of gratitude” to the university. Ray Eckstein is a 1949 graduate of the Law School and a transportation entrepreneur. Kay Eckstein received her bachelor’s degree from Marquette in speech in 1949.
“My wife and I have many fond memories at Marquette. It was the place of our meeting and courtship, and the beginning of our wonderful life together. Catholic, Jesuit education has played an important role in our lives. We are honored and thrilled to be able to provide the Law School with the foundation for a new building, so that students in the future can have the opportunity to benefit from the education we did,” said Ray Eckstein. Eckstein said he hoped his gift would encourage others to step forward to make the new building a reality. The initial cost estimate for the project is $80 million.
Kay Eckstein said their granddaughter’s recent experience as a graduate of the Law School reinforced their sense of gratitude for the values of a Marquette education. “We saw once again the caring, challenging environment that Marquette continues to offer its students,” she said.
“Marquette lawyers graduate with a solid foundation in law and procedure, with the highest personal ethics and values, with the passion to provide justice for their clients and with a dedication to the rule of the law which guides and protects us,” Father Wild said. “We need to provide our students and faculty with a building equipped for the needs of the 21st century and to provide both the university and our community with space for the study, discussion and debate of public policy issues. I believe that the Ecksteins’ generous gift will be the catalyst to move forward on this dream.”
Father Wild said he first received news of the gift on his birthday. “What a splendid birthday present!” he said. “That was a day I won’t ever forget.”
After establishing his own law practice in his native Cassville, Wis., Ray Eckstein founded Wisconsin Barge Lines in 1958. With a fleet of tugboats and barges, the company carried bulk commodities from port to port along the Mississippi River. After selling his first company, Eckstein formed a new company in 1978, naming it Marquette Transportation after his alma mater and the French Jesuit priest who explored the Mississippi with Louis Jolliet. He continues to serve as a member of the board of the business which is now headquartered in Paducah, Ky. The company’s 38 tugboats and nearly 600 dry cargo barges serve some of the world’s largest suppliers of food and commodities.
This is the second major gift targeted to Marquette’s new Law School facility. Last month the Bradley Foundation announced a $1 million donation, calling the Law School a “fundamental component of Milwaukee’s future.”
Joseph D. Kearney, dean of the Law School, said, “Marquette Law School serves as a home, a resource, and a powerhouse of information and ideas for the community, region and beyond. The new facility will provide space that nurtures faculty and student discussion and research, that provides the best technology, that supports our extensive program of conferences, lectures and symposia, and that permits the flourishing of our dynamic programs in areas such as dispute resolution and litigation, intellectual property, health law, sports law, and restorative justice.”
The location is expected to be at the corner of 11th Street and Clybourn Street, in an area known as Tory Hill. “The location itself is a dramatic symbol of the importance of the Law School,” Kearney said. “Tory Hill rises alongside the most prominent crossroads in the State of Wisconsin—it forms one corner of the Marquette Interchange in downtown Milwaukee.”
The building will make an “eloquent and exciting statement about Marquette’s connection to Milwaukee and the region,” Kearney said. With a curving transparent façade facing the Marquette Interchange (formed by I-94 and I-43) and an exterior, campus-side façade in the signature campus brick color, preliminary drawings for the new Law School depict a four-story, 180,000 square foot structure with 11 classrooms, 12 seminar/conference spaces of various sizes, 52 faculty offices, a chapel and Moot Courtroom. Central to the design is a ground floor forum that will serve as an inviting gathering place and will connect the teaching, research, conference and social spaces within the building. A three-story garage with 450 parking spaces will be constructed below the Law School; the entrance to the garage will be at 13th and Clybourn.
Kearney noted that over the past 25 years, Marquette’s Law School faculty has doubled in size, the student body has increased 50 percent and the law library collection is two and one-half times larger.
U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Marquette among the top 100 law schools in the country. The school’s dispute resolution program is ranked sixth nationally and its legal writing program 26th.
Kearney said the new building will be named in honor of the Ecksteins, as will the facility’s law library, which will house more than 300,000 volumes as well as extensive online resources.
“It is our hope that our gift will inspire people to do more for Marquette than they have ever imagined,” the Ecksteins told Father Wild. Julie Tolan, Marquette’s vice president for university advancement, said, “In light of the Ecksteins’ extraordinary gift, the university will undertake an accelerated effort to raise additional money by Dec. 31, 2007, in hopes of beginning construction of the new Law School facility next year.”
This is the second eight-figure gift announced by Marquette in the past six months. In December the College of Engineering received a gift commitment of more than $25 million from anonymous donors to transform engineering education.
“These gifts for the College of Engineering and the Law School will allow us to advance our master campus plan,” Father Wild said. “With this extraordinary support, Marquette can continue to create knowledge and educate men and women to address some of the most challenging issues of the 21st century.”