Marquette University mourns the loss of alumnus, friend and major benefactor, Ray Eckstein

April 22, 2019

The Marquette University community mourns the loss of one of its closest friends and most significant benefactors, Ray Eckstein, who passed away peacefully on April 20, 2019. Ray received his law degree from Marquette in 1949. The Marquette University Law School facility is named in honor of him and his wife, Kay, who received her bachelor’s degree from Marquette in speech in 1949. Kay died in 2017.

The university has created a slide show in honor of Ray Eckstein, with photos courtesy of Marquette University Special Collections and University Archives.

“Ray Eckstein was an extraordinary businessman, a brilliant visionary, a devoted father, a beloved husband, a man of deep faith and a game-changing force who helped shape Marquette into the institution it is today,” said Marquette University President Michael R. Lovell. “Early in my presidency, I had the chance to visit Ray and Kay at their home in Paducah, Kentucky, to thank them for their role in transforming Marquette’s campus. During our conversation, I was moved by Ray’s humility and gratitude for his Marquette education, which is where he met the love of his life, Kay. The Marquette community has lost a bright light, and we extend our prayers and deep condolences to Ray’s family, who meant so much to him.”

The Ecksteins’ generosity can be found throughout campus and includes additional recent major gifts: The couple supported the university’s Dr. E. J. O’Brien Jesuit Residence in 2014, and in January 2017, they supported the construction of the university’s new residence hall facility in 50 years, The Commons. In addition, the family played a key role in the Ray & Kay Eckstein Law Library as well as the Al McGuire Center.

“Ray and Kay Eckstein transformed lives,” said Marquette Law School Dean Joseph D. Kearney. “Most obviously, they led the way to support Marquette University’s construction of Ray and Kay Eckstein Hall, an extraordinary resource in this region and widely recognized as the best law school building in the country. Throughout his life more generally, Ray was not only a very successful businessman, whose work supported economic growth and job creation, but he also embraced the role of a philanthropist, especially after stepping away from the daily activities of the barge and transportation business.  In all of this, Ray used his keen intelligence and legal training to solve complicated problems, and he also relied on his curiosity about how things work, his innate interest in people and his sense of humanity.  We are most grateful for the life and work of this exemplar of the Marquette lawyer. I will miss him very much.”

Said Marquette University Assistant Dean for Development John Novotny: “Ray was an amazing man, who among his many qualities had a wonderful love for life and spirit of perseverance second to none.  Above all, Ray always put God and family first.  He often spoke of how God had blessed him throughout his life.  Time and distance did not separate him from his roots. To the contrary, he remembered and remained loyal to the people of Cassville, Wisconsin, as well as his alma mater, Marquette University. In gratitude, he readily availed himself to lend a helping hand to the communities that had done so much for him in his youth and truly took great joy transforming the lives of others through his generosity.”

In 2007, when Marquette University announced the couple’s Law School gift, Kay Eckstein said their granddaughter’s experience as a graduate of the Law School had 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.

As the couple was announcing their 2007 gift, Ray Eckstein shared: “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.”

A full obituary is available online.


About Lynn Griffith

Lynn Griffith

Lynn is chief marketing and communication officer. Contact Lynn at (414) 288-4719 or