With a strong belief in the impact of education and a commitment to promoting dialogue around society’s most challenging public policy issues, Milwaukee philanthropists Shel and Marianne have invested in Marquette as an agent of change.
The founder and current chairman of Milwaukee-based investment firm Lubar & Co., Shel is known throughout greater Milwaukee for his entrepreneurial success, his active community involvement and, together with Marianne, their generous, high-impact philanthropy in the areas of arts, social welfare and education.
Shel and Marianne met as undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where Shel earned his business and law degrees. After developing the investment concept called “Professional Ownership” that has propelled his firm’s continued growth, Shel was asked to serve in the Nixon administration as assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, remaining through the transition to Ford’s administration. He later served with the Carter administration as Commissioner of the First White House Conference on Small Business. Upon returning to Milwaukee, he founded Lubar & Co., and shortly thereafter, then-Marquette President John P. Raynor, S.J., invited him to serve on Marquette’s Board of Trustees.
“The board, at that time, was largely made up of Jesuits,” Shel says. “It was a great experience. I really enjoyed it.” He served from 1980 to 1991, when he was recruited to the UW System’s Board of Regents. Still, he says, “I retained that feeling for Marquette and respect for what they represented in the Milwaukee community. I knew at some point I wanted to found a public policy institute, and I decided I would talk to Marquette about it.”
Conversations with Law School Dean Joseph Kearney and then President Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J., led the Lubars to create the Sheldon B. Lubar Endowed Fund for Public Policy in 2010. The Lubars expanded on this gift in 2017, establishing the Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education. An October 2017 launch event for the center introduced a new initiative: the Milwaukee Area Project, a long-term exploration of issues and trends shaping life in the five-county Milwaukee area.
The gift advances the Law School’s leadership as a hub of public policy discussion to foster constructive conversations and achieve greater understanding, according to Marquette President Michael R. Lovell.
Noting at the center’s announcement that he and Marianne were “very thrilled to be associated with Marquette University,” Shel sees the school’s independent nature and the center’s highly qualified leaders as keys to encouraging public discussion and education. “Intellect,” he says, “is the real wealth of a nation.”