Father Wild announces retirement as Marquette’s PresidentMarch 4, 2010
Father Robert A. Wild, the 22nd president in Marquette’s history, plans to retire in June 2011, the Journal Sentinel has learned.
Wild has been president of the Jesuit university since June 17, 1996.
Wild told members of the school’s Board of Trustees of his decision on Wednesday. On Thursday afternoon, he is scheduled to speak to the faculty for the annual President’s Address at 3 p.m. in Weasler Auditorium.
Wild’s retirement date is expected to be June 30, 2011, or when a successor takes office, whichever comes later.
As president, Wild has presided over a dramatic remaking of Marquette’s urban campus and its infrastructure and has raised the profile of the university nationally.
Under his leadership, Marquette opened a new school of dentistry in 2002, revamped and greatly expanded the John P. Raynor Library in 2003, built the Al McGuire Center in 2004, and will soon open a new Law School adjacent to the Marquette Interchange.
On Friday, Marquette officials will break ground on the $35 million Discovery Learning Complex, a project seen as a first phase toward a new $100 million engineering school. Recently, Zilber Hall, a new office building, was opened on W. Wisconsin Ave.
In the athletic department, Wild, along with former athletic director Bill Cords, successfully campaigned to join the Big East Conference, considered the leading men’s basketball conference in the country. Marquette joined the conference in 2005.
In 2005, Wild led an aggressive fund-raising campaign, raising a total of $357 million. It was easily the successful fund-raising program in the school’s history.
Wild’s tenure at Marquette did not come without some controversy, especially when students and alumni set off a controversy over the nickname for the school’s athletic teams.
In fall 2004, Marquette fans said in a university-sponsored survey that they felt Golden Eagles was a boring nickname. As a result, the trustees passed on calls to restore the old Warriors nickname, which Wild vigorously opposed, junked Golden Eagles and decided to name the teams the Gold.
The decision set off an embarrassing public relations mess, forcing Wild to admit that, “We were not winning hearts and minds,” with the choice of Gold.
The trustees then created a new nickname selection process allowing Marquette fans to vote on the best name. The winner became the Golden Eagles.
The school currently has an undergraduate enrollment of 8,081, with an additional 3,608 students in graduate programs.
The university ranks 84th among the top national universities in the 2010 edition of America’s Best Colleges, released by U.S. News & World Report.
Before coming to Marquette, Wild was president of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass. From 1985 to 1991, he served as provincial superior of the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus.
A native of Chicago, Wild holds a doctoral degree in New Testament and Christian origins from Harvard University, has a master’s degree in classical languages, a bachelor’s degree in Latin from Loyola University of Chicago, and a licentiate in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology in Chicago. Wild also taught theology at Marquette from 1975 to 1984.
Wild entered the Society of Jesus in 1957 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1970.
Normally, the presidents of Jesuit universities are Jesuits. However, Georgetown University, considered one of the leading Jesuit universities, is led by a layperson.
Marquette trustees are expected to name a committee to find a successor to Wild.
Sad. I thought he did a great job rebuilding Marquette’s infrastructure, academics and athletics. He was a terrific fundraiser, built various buildings that made Marquette more competitive as a university and he was able to lobby for Marquette to join the Big East. Minus the Gold fiasco, he has had a successful tenure as the President of the University.
He certainly far out shined his predecessor and hopefully Marquette will have ample time to find someone to fill his very big shoes.