History professor connects with students, fellow Jesuits

The Rev. Michael Zeps speaks on how much he enjoys working and living at Marquette. Photo submitted by Father Zeps

The Rev. Michael Zeps is a die-hard fan of canning pickles, playing the violin and working out with his tennis group. With his spunk and calm demeanor, this associate history professor is an average Joe, but with a twist of Jesuit.

Zeps has worked at Marquette since 1979 and has a full schedule of lectures. He is also one of the only male residents to have lived in Cobeen Hall, where he has served as hall minister for the past 33 years.

A typical day in Zeps’ own words:

“I wake up around 6:30 each morning, have breakfast at 7:15 with a group of nice ladies in Cobeen, go to class, have lunch at the Jes Res, go to class and have mass at five with the other boys,” he said. “Then we sit around, chat, have supper and say lots of yuks.”

Zeps said the time he spends with the other Jesuits on campus creates a bond that is unique to his other relationships.

“You wouldn’t believe what we talk about,” he said. “It is really quite esoteric but is special to the brotherhood we are a part of.”

Just as he enjoys spending time with the other Jesuits on campus, he also enjoys his time with the students. He said it brings him the biggest reward for his profession.

“It is a great joy to be able to witness the world and Jesus Christ,” Zeps said. “To see students grow intellectually but also personally when they adjust to moving away from their parents, then see them go out in the world and even return, is a great joy.”

Timothy Cigelske, communication specialist in the Office of Marketing and Communication, graduated in 2004, but remembers his freshman year Western Civilization honors class, taught by Zeps.

It was Cigelske’s first Marquette class and Zeps went around the room asking the students to say their first and last names.

“Each of us said our last name and he critiqued them,” Cigelske said. “He would explain the best wines that were from the region our name was from, what worldly events happened and what war they won thousands of years ago.”

Cigelske was baptized Catholic and raised Lutheran, but said he had never heard of the term “Jesuit” before attending Marquette.

“I didn’t think about priests in the classroom,” he said. “When I met Zeps, he set the mold about what Jesuits were and their significance to Marquette … Father Zeps was a very worldly, knowledgeable man who smashed the stereotype.”

Eilish Tucker, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, was a founding member of the group of girls Zeps began to eat his 7:15 a.m. breakfast with.

She was a sophomore when a group of five to 10 girls, including herself, were eating in Cobeen and saw Zeps eating alone. They invited him to eat with them.

“Ever since that morning we would eat breakfast with him Monday through Friday,” Tucker said.

The self-declared “Breakfast Club” grew from a small group to sixteen regular students. Tucker said she saw Zeps last week and he informed her that the group has grown to about 30 students who now have to pull tables together.

She could not remember any specific conversations, but did recall having very intellectual conversations as well as light-hearted ones.

Students provide mixed reviews about Zeps as a professor. On ratemyprofessor.com, he has an average rating of 3.2 out of five.

When asked about the results, Zeps pointed out one comment in particular he liked:

“Lots of notes taken during class from his awful handwriting.”

“I use cursive and a lot of students don’t like that and don’t have the highest regard for me, but I don’t have the highest regard for those students who have bad handwriting either,” Zeps chuckled.