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Marquette University Alumni Association

All-University Recipients

Alumnus of the Year Award

Donald J. Herdrich

Tequesta, Fla.

After serving in Vietnam as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, Don returned home ready to put his Marquette engineering degrees to work only to find few appealing job opportunities. Don’s brother encouraged him to interview at First National Bank of Chicago, and Don decided to go even though “I knew I really wasn’t interested in banking,” he recalls.

It was the first step in what would become an incredibly successful career in investment management. Don earned his M.B.A. in night school and the bank introduced him to venture capital investing, which Don found was a great application for his engineering education. He eventually went on to investment management positions at Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts when it was dominating the corporate buyout scene in the 1980s. In 1986, he became a founding partner of Stonebridge Partners, a private equity firm that focuses on middle-market manufacturing businesses.

Don, who is now retired, loved the challenge and variety he found in the investment business.

“Day after day, I had the opportunity to look at new companies, and it was always fascinating and impressive,” he says. “All over America, I discovered great people running wonderful companies, and they’re really experts at what they do. So many times, I had never even thought about where these products come from or how they’re manufactured.”

A former university trustee, Don says his undergraduate and graduate education at Marquette served him well even if his career veered in an unexpected direction. “At Marquette, we were taught a process for analyzing and solving problems that is applicable in analyzing businesses. That same process is really applicable to almost everything you do,” he says.

Don adds, “The Christian values that I learned at Marquette are still so evident today in all the volunteer work that Marquette students do in the surrounding community.”

Giving back has also been important to Don. For more than 15 years, he has been on the board of the Partnership for Inner-City Education, which supports parochial schools in New York City, and he serves as chairman of the investment and finance committees. He has been deeply involved in the Katonah Museum of Art just outside New York City, serving on its board, helping raise its endowment and overseeing the construction of its current building. He is also a longtime supporter of research and development at the Mayo Clinic.

The next generation of Marquette students are also benefiting from Don’s generosity. He and his wife, Fran, were both first-generation college students, and for nearly 30 years they have supported the Donald J. and Frances I. Herdrich Scholarship at Marquette. They’re passionate about helping other students become the first in their families to attend college.

“Fran and I think it’s critically important for that first generation to get into college and get a degree,” Don says. “Having an excellent education opens doors and provides greater opportunities for them and their families.”