Former CEO funds $2.5 million Pathway Program


John and JoEllen Stollenwerk donated $2.5 million to Pathways Program. Photo courtesy of Stollenwerk Family

A $2.5 million partnership program with Marquette University High School will allocate funds directly to Marquette University High School, a private feeder school for Marquette University.

This partnership is called the Pathway Program and was gifted entirely from Marquette University alumni John and JoEllen Stollenwerk, both on the Marquette University President’s Advisory Council.

The program will establish future scholarships, admission counseling and reduce prices for college level courses from the university, according to a news release.

University spokesperson Chris Stolarski officially stated the intention of this program is to dissolve financial constraints that may impede students at Marquette High School from future academic opportunities at Marquette University.

“Marquette University is incredibly grateful to the Stollenwerks’ generosity for this gift and their entire lifetime of philanthropy,” Chris released in a formal statement.

Without the Stollenwerks donation, this mutually beneficial program between the high school and university wouldn’t exist.

President Michael Lovell addressed in an Urban Milwaukee article that Marquette University enrolls more graduates from Marquette University High School than any other high school in the nation.  This Pathway Program will strengthen the unity of the schools even more as they align more closely with their Jesuit and academic mission to shape students into ethical leaders.

Stollenwork is a Wauwatosa native who graduated from Marquette University High School in 1958 and from Marquette University in 1962. JoEllen, his wife, graduated from Marquette University in 1966.

Stated in an article from OnMilwaukee, Stollenwork is a well-known business entrepreneur around the Milwaukee metropolitan area. He was once the former CEO of Allen-Edmonds from 1980 to 2006, a high retail leather shoe company based in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

In a phone interview with John Stollenwerk, he mentioned he saw a real urge for a financial upgrade at Marquette high. Lower-income and middle class families who had family attend the school were requesting more financial aide over the past years, considering the enrollment tuition starts a $15,000 a year. The scholarships associated with the program have no qualifications beside having “good academic standing,” Stollenwerk remarked.

Despite funding a scholarship program that will only be effective at one high school in Milwaukee, John made is clear this was a “Marquette to Marquette program to encourage more students to stay in Milwaukee.”

The Pathway Experience program goes hand in hand with President Lovells new plans to increase total undergraduate enrollment in the coming years as Marquette Universe will be more accessible and attractive for Marquette University High School students to come.

In the news release, John and JoEllen said the reasoning behind the grant is out of regard to both schools “academic excellence, discipline and education grounded in values.”

The Stollenwerk family said in the news release they wish to keep Jesuit education alive for future Marquette University High School students with this pathway program.

Tom Duffy, who graduated from Marquette High School in 2008 and Marquette University’s Physical Therapy graduate program in 2014, recalls how Marquette High School only offered Jesuit scholarships before this Pathway Program. He said this new program will comfort more students about the cost of higher education.

“The cost is a big incentive for going to universities and this will help out students a lot,” Duffy said.

He said he “definitely” thinks the program will convince more Marquette High School students to attend Marquette University considering the program targets students thinking of continuing their education at the university.

The National Center Education for Statistics reported the average tuition cost for private nonprofit institutions rose by 24% after inflation adjustment from 2006-2007 and 2016-2017. With the cost of higher education rising, the scare of student debt looms over future college students considering privatized higher education.

Duffy said students should be rewarded for strong academic work effort and said he feels strongly that this program is a much needed opportunity for Marquette High School students even though it only caters to a small demographic of Milwaukee land area students.

This story was written by JK Rees. He can be reached at