Alumni give back


Marcus Lemonis and his wife Bobbi donated $15 million to create the Lemonis Center for Student Success.

Alumnus Marcus Lemonis and his wife Bobbi have donated $15 million to create the Lemonis Center for Student Success, Marquette University President Michael Lovell announced Saturday afternoon.

The Lemonis Center for Student Success will provide services for students across all majors, academic abilities and backgrounds to enrich and expand student opportunities.

“It is always important for Bobbi and me to create a clear path to success for every individual, no matter where they are from or what they are studying,” Lemonis said in a statement.  “As an alumnus who got the most out of my experience, it was paramount for me to highlight the things that worked and to strengthen the things that could get better. This initial gift is the start of building the road for others.”

Lemonis, the chairman and CEO of Camping World, graduated from the College of Arts & Sciences in 1995. He was also a four-year member of the track & field team.

In a press conference with the media during halftime of Saturday’s men’s basketball game, Lemonis said what inspired his wife and him to make this gift was two things.

The first being, “Lovell’s journey as he overcame challenges” and the second being looking back  on their “own lives where we’re trying to overcome things.”

“When I first came to Marquette, Milwaukee, I came from Miami, Florida, which is not exactly a perfect combination,” Lemonis said. “I came here looking to create a new persona and to create a new pathway. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, who I was or where I was going. When I left Milwaukee and Marquette because I really put those two together, I knew exactly who I wanted to be.”

Last year during his Presidential Address, Lovell said the university’s new Student Success Initiative is a top strategic priority of his.

The Lemonis’ gift will help “enhance and scale Marquette’s efforts to drive this priority forward in the most visible way possible.”

In acknowledgment of the Lemonis’ gift, the university will rename Memorial Library to the Lemonis Center for Student Success.

“The Lemonis Center for Student Success is going to be in the heart of our campus and that’s really important because student success is the heart of what it means to get a Marquette education,” Lovell said in Saturday’s press conference.

It will truly be a hub for students to get access to all the resources that we have on campus so that no matter what their background, it will be home and a place for them to come, gather, get programming and really gain the resources and help us develop them for men, women, for others.”

Lovell said the space is expected to be up and open in a couple of years.

Provost Kimo Ah Yun said the center will bring a “sense of belonging” to students when walking in.

“We are sincerely grateful for this generous gift from Marcus, which will dramatically elevate the student experience,” Ah Yun said in the statement. “The Lemonis Center for Student Success will be a major step forward to help ensure that all students thrive beyond initial access and scholarship support.”

Ah Yun said the importance of continually improving graduation and retention rates, as well as the potential to reduce costs for students.

“We now have an opportunity to take a lead role in significantly lowering student debt by reducing the time it takes students to graduate,” Ah Yun said in the statement link. “Our Student Success Initiative is shining a light on ways to substantially improve retention and graduation rates. The support services housed in the Lemonis Center will elevate those initiatives.”

Lemonis said he wants the resources in the center to serve “what students actually want versus what the administration believes they need.”

“We’re working on students surveys and things of that nature,” Lemonis said. “Bobbi and I will have a very active involvement in that process.”

Last Wednesday Feb. 23, Lemonis announced a $5 million challenge on Twitter to encourage others to give to “join the student success movement.”

“One of the things that improves graduation rates is being assimilated into an environment, knowing where to go if I am whatever race or whatever gender or whatever religion even, and that’s an important thing to know about Marquette, that I’m welcome and then I have a path to brightness,” Lemonis said.

Lovell mentioned in addition to the Lemonis’ $15 million donation, the additional $5 million will “fund the transformational facility upgrade that will drive Marquette to fully reimagine student success into a physical space that will serve as a new home for comprehensive support services.”

Lemonis emphasized this gift is “the start of our path for Marquette and the City of Milwaukee.”

“This is not the statement, this is the beginning of a very long paragraph,” Lemonis said. “We’re going to look for other opportunities to support Dr. Lovell, the university, the students and most importantly, the faculty who don’t necessarily get the recognition and the accolades that they deserve.”

This story was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU.