Lovell announces transformational gift that will serve as catalyst for College of Nursing in seventh Presidential Address

Feb. 4, 2021

$31 million gift from alumni couple will fuel scholarships, increase diversity, drive innovative health care advances and support strategic initiatives

Darren and Terry JacksonMILWAUKEE — President Michael R. Lovell emphasized bold plans to grow, diversify and innovate the university’s College of Nursing in his seventh annual Presidential Address, his first-ever virtual address. To drive these plans, he said, the university needs support from some of its most accomplished and dedicated alumni, parents and friends. One alumni couple has “answered the call,” Lovell announced, stepping forward to give a $31 million gift that will fuel the College of Nursing’s strategic initiatives, including enrollment growth.

Darren and Terry Jackson said they were inspired by university leadership’s plans to significantly grow the number of Marquette Nurses around the world as well as by the many alumni courageously leading on the frontlines of the pandemic.

“This significant gift will dramatically impact Marquette University’s future,” President Lovell said.

When announcing the gift from the university’s 707 Innovation Hub, President Lovell said that he was “incredibly humbled” by Darren Jackson’s two-word response when he asked the couple what inspired their transformational gift.

“We believe,” Jackson said.

In a video message shared during the address, Jackson went on to say, “We believe in the mission of Marquette. That mission of Marquette has touched all of us. That is what we are investing in. We are investing in leadership.”

The College of Nursing’s leadership team, working alongside the Jacksons, has cast a vision to prepare 5,000 nurses over the next decade and beyond. Of the 5,000 nurses, the college aspires to educate 1,000 diverse Marquette Nurses, grow Ph.D.-prepared faculty and is endeavoring to lead in emerging areas, including telehealth education. Recognizing the rapidly changing health care environment, the plans will meet a pressing need to develop future nurse leaders.

“This generous gift comes at a really critical time as we persist through the pandemic and work to address racial injustices so that we can decrease health disparities,” said Dr. Janet Krejci, dean of the College of Nursing. “We see significant opportunity to increase the enrollment, retention and graduation rates for our underrepresented students and deepen all of our students’ understanding and competencies of how to support and engage patients from a range of different backgrounds. Darren and Terry have not only given of their treasure, they’ve given of their time working beside us to map out this vision.”

Answering the call
Terry Jackson, a 1987 College of Nursing graduate who leads the College of Nursing’s campaign committee, shared her own inspiration. She described how the Marquette Nurse embodies the Jesuit principle of cura personalis – care for the whole person – demonstrates courageous leadership and goes far beyond a job to answer a calling.

“Our country has been through a real challenge over the past year,” she said. “Not only with the COVID crisis, but in the economic crisis and in the cries for social justice. Our goal is to help Marquette answer the call.”

Grounded in the College of Nursing’s new strategic plan, the gift launches a strategic initiatives fund that will invest in emerging health care innovation. To further support all students, the college will provide enhanced wrap-around academic advising support and form a new teaching academy to counter faculty shortages. The academy will be led by the college’s nationally recognized scientific experts.

Growing scholarships, reducing health disparities
The Jacksons’ gift will expand scholarship opportunities for students, with a focus on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. Beginning in fall 2021, scholarships will be designated for underrepresented students who are accepted into the College of Nursing, with additional scholarships added each year. After the initial ramp-up phase, up to 80 scholarships per year will be awarded to Marquette nursing students from underrepresented backgrounds.

“The College of Nursing has been a shining example of academic excellence, and this transformational gift will develop countless strong Marquette Nurses who advocate for the most vulnerable patients,” President Lovell said. “We are so grateful to Darren and Terry Jackson for their leadership and vision.”

Darren Jackson, who graduated in 1986 from the College of Business Administration, served as chair of the Board of Trustees from 2009 to 2012. Both Darren and Terry co-chair the President’s Advisory Council. Marquette is preparing to publicly launch its comprehensive fundraising campaign this April.

Health care leaders across the country have shined a spotlight on the need for nurses to mirror the patient population to strive for health equity. Marquette’s College of Nursing has expert researchers engaged with the community to impact health in several populations, including adults with chronic illnesses as well as faculty investigating racial disparities in maternal-child health.

In his video remarks, Darren Jackson highlighted how “Marquette has a heritage of being first.” Marquette was the first university in the world to admit women in a Catholic university and among the first to develop an Educational Opportunity Program to enhance access and support. “When you think about nursing, there is this great societal need, and we will be first again,” he said.

“Darren and Terry’s leadership gift has made an immediate impact and will leave a profound legacy – one that will advance even more Marquette Nurses to be at the forefront for some of society’s great health care challenges and solutions,” said Vice President for Advancement Tim McMahon. “Their gift is inspiring for many reasons, but perhaps none more than the life-changing opportunities they will create for future Marquette students who will pay it forward for generations.”

New Teaching Academy will build off signature programming
Across the nation, colleges are facing a serious nursing faculty shortage. One third of the current nursing faculty workforce in baccalaureate and graduate programs are expected to retire by 2025, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The Marquette College of Nursing’s new Teaching Academy will surface evolving health care trends, study evidence-based methods and build off signature programming including its innovative model of reflection and reasoning following clinical simulation that is currently used by colleges across the country. This year, the university climbed to a ranking of number 18 in the nation for undergraduate teaching by U.S. News & World Report.

A core component of the Teaching Academy will focus on providing preparation for faculty to achieve national certifications in nursing education. This distinction demonstrates that nursing faculty have the most sophisticated level of knowledge, skills and attitudes to provide the highest quality care to patients and their families. Nationally certified nurses are recognized as lifelong learners who deliver care based on the latest safety, quality and evidence.

Significant enrollment growth
According to the American Nurses Association, more registered nurse jobs will be available through 2022 than any other profession in the United States. Four years ago, Marquette evolved to meet the needs of the community by launching a hybrid-learning nursing degree in a satellite site in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. Since then, nearly 400 additional graduate students have joined the accelerated direct-entry master of science in nursing program. Marquette currently enrolls 1,287 nursing students, 616 of whom are undergraduate students. President Lovell emphasized that the Jacksons’ gift spurs momentum for additional philanthropic gifts to drive further growth and help impact nursing workforce shortages throughout the nation.

President Lovell shared additional major gifts during his seventh Presidential Address. Watch for more news on these gifts in coming days.

About Lynn Griffith

Lynn Griffith

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