From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-May 4, 2007
Almost 60 years after graduating from Marquette University, a couple who made their fortune moving cargo up and down the Mississippi River will donate $51 million to the university, a gift that will launch construction of a new law school building.
The grant is believed to be the largest single gift by individuals to a Wisconsin university or college and one of the largest gifts on record to a law school in the United States.
The new $80 million law school building will be in a high-visibility location overlooking the Marquette Interchange, MU officials said Thursday. They hope to break ground on the four-story structure next spring and move in by fall 2009.
The donors are Raymond and Kathryn Eckstein, who live now in Boca Raton, Fla., but spend several months a year in Cassville, the small town in Grant County on the Mississippi River where he grew up and worked for many years. Raymond Eckstein, 81, launched and developed two businesses operating boats and barges that moved traffic on the Mississippi and other inland waterways.
Eckstein said Thursday that he was eager to do something for Marquette and he was now in a position where he could make a gift of this size.
"They do need a new law school," he said. "We wanted to make it a good contribution so it could spearhead this so they could get started on this right away."
Father Robert A. Wild, Marquette's president, said: "I think it certainly ensures that the much-needed project of building a new law school will be achieved, and will be achieved in style. More people will have to get involved, true, but we're energized. I also think it lifts people's sight and imagination about what Marquette is able to accomplish."
The new building is likely to become Marquette's most visible face for the public at large. At N. 11th and W. Clybourn streets, it will sit on open land at the northwest corner of the freeway interchange, which is one of Wisconsin's most heavily traveled pieces of roadway.
Law school Dean Joseph D. Kearney said the new building, expected to have 125,000 square feet of usable space, will offer twice the room of the current law school, located just north of the new site, and much better facilities for teaching.
He said it will also have an open feeling unusual for law schools and aimed at making the building a welcoming place for community-oriented programs. The design would be in line with a new effort by the law school to connect with the wider community and promote discussion of public issues, an initiative most noted for the hiring of former television anchorman Mike Gousha as a distinguished fellow with the school.
The exterior is expected to include a large, curving wall of glass and masonry, following the curve of the Marquette Interchange, that Kearney described as noble, bold, harmonious, dramatic and confident. There will be a large parking garage underneath the building.
The building will be named for the Ecksteins, as will the law library, which includes more than 300,000 volumes.
The new building recently received its first large gift, $1 million from the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation.
Kearney said a campaign will begin soon to raise the remainder of what is needed for the building and funds to support the law school itself. The campaign goal is more than $100 million, including the $80 million for the building.
Wild said Sensenbrenner Hall, the building at N. 11th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. that now houses much of the law school, would not be torn down, although its future use has not been decided.
The donors met at Marquette, where Raymond Eckstein received his bachelor's degree and law degree. He played on the Marquette basketball team in the mid-1940s.
Kathryn Eckstein grew up in Chicago and graduated with a degree in speech, her husband said.
Raymond Eckstein grew up in Cassville and returned there after graduating from Marquette Law School in 1949.
Started two companies
"The legal business in a small town wasn't that flourishing, so I had a lot of time on my hands," he recalled in an interview Thursday. He got involved in other business, and that grew into Wisconsin Barge Lines, which hauled cargo on the river. He sold that company in 1969 to a Chicago-based conglomerate, serving as president of the company until 1978.
Then he left to start a new company, Marquette Transportation Co. - named with both the university and the French explorer-priest in mind - which also owns boats and barges for moving freight on inland waterways. That company, now run by one of his sons, is based in Paducah, Ky.
Eckstein said he and his wife, who is 80, had led good lives, including having eight children, 28 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, and finding financial success.
"I feel a lot of it we owe to our upbringing and education at Marquette," he said.
The largest previous single gift to a university in Wisconsin was $50 million from John and Tashia Morgridge to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, announced a year ago. John Morgridge is the chairman of Cisco Systems Inc. In a separate gift in 2004, the Morgridges gave $31 million to the Madison campus.
Marquette has done very well in receiving mega-gifts in recent years.
In December, the university announced a $25 million grant from donors who wanted to remain anonymous to improve engineering education.
In May 2005, J. William and Mary Diederich unveiled plans to give Marquette's College of Communication $28 million. J. William Diederich was a top executive of the company that created the Weather Channel.
In 2004, the estate of Helen Way Klingler made a grant of $18 million.