Marquette alumnus commits $5 million to establish first-generation scholarships

Oct. 7, 2019

Tom and Suzanne WernerMILWAUKEE — As Marquette University celebrates the 50th anniversary of its nationally recognized Educational Opportunity Program, President Michael R. Lovell announced that alumnus
Thomas H. Werner and his wife Suzanne have committed $5 million dedicated to new
first-generation scholarships.

“Tom and Suzanne’s belief in the mission of Marquette University, our ability to deliver a transformational education and the need to provide access all came together in this incredibly generous gift,” said Lovell. “Scholarships are a top priority of our strategic plan, Beyond Boundaries, and the Werners’ commitment will forever benefit the lives of future students and their families.”

Tom Werner has served as a member of Marquette’s Board of Trustees since 2012 and has led Silicon Valley headquartered SunPower Corporation, a leading global solar company, as its chief executive officer since June of 2003. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Marquette in 1986.

The Werners’ gift will launch The Thomas & Suzanne Werner Endowed Scholars Program for First-Generation Students and also support Marquette’s new award-winning pre-orientation program, called RISE. Ready to Inspire Success and Excellence, a program led by Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Xavier Cole, provides multicultural and underrepresented students with additional resources, connections and a stronger sense of belonging on campus weeks before they begin classes.

“I was very lucky when I grew up,” Tom Werner said. “For me, a college education was expected, and even a given, but that isn’t true for so many young people. As a Trustee of Marquette University, this was a great opportunity to give back and to open wider doors for higher education. We are proud that more first-generation and minority students will now have the opportunity to make a significant impact on the world by attending a great institution with tremendous leadership and a strong mission.”

More than 20 percent of current Marquette students are the first in their family to attend college. With university leaders emphasizing a culture of inclusion, the university has nearly doubled its undergraduate student diversity from 15 percent in 2008 to 28 percent in 2019.

“Marquette University embodies cura personalis, which means caring for the whole person,” Cole said. “Thanks to Tom and Suzanne, we can now further cultivate a sense of belonging for each individual student, regardless of background or circumstance. Our focus in RISE is to help our diverse and first-generation students know they are cared for and supported with the ultimate goal of helping them succeed both academically, professionally, and in life beyond Marquette.” 

“We are very grateful to Tom and Suzanne for their philanthropic leadership, which will provide life-changing access for first-generation Marquette students for decades to come,” said Vice President for University Advancement Tim McMahon. “This transformational gift also builds momentum for our comprehensive campaign, and I believe, has the power to inspire additional alumni, parents and friends to invest their generous funds to create scholarships for deserving students.”

About Christopher Stolarski

Christopher Stolarski

Chris is an associate director of university communication in the Office of University Relations. Contact Chris at (414) 288-1988 or