Since his arrival on June 17, 1996, University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild has witnessed and played a role in many pivotal moments in Marquette’s history, from expanding the university’s infrastructure and joining the Big East Conference, to the infamous — albeit short-lived — name change to ‘The Gold.’ People have come to see him as the institution’s leader and source of inspiration.
However, last March, Wild announced his retirement as president at the end of this year. And while this marks the end of an era, we welcome his successor, the Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, with open arms.
But Wild is a tough act for Pilarz to follow, leaving behind an impressive legacy and a lasting impression on students, faculty and staff.
During his tenure as president, Wild has accomplished great things for the university. Prior to his arrival, the university had a $6 million budget deficit. Wild not only erased the university’s debt, but has also created a surplus, enabling further expansion and advancement for the university.
And Wild’s fundraising ability is nothing short of impressive. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wild raised $357 million for the university in 2005 — the largest campaign earnings in university history — and raised an overall $725 million during his time as president.
Thanks to Wild’s successful fundraising campaign history, Marquette was able to build instrumental facilities on campus, such as the large addition to Raynor Memorial Library, a new dental school and the Al McGuire Center. These funds are also used for a significant portion of scholarship money granted to students.
These additions and improvements increased the university’s profile nationally, increasing enrollment dramatically and boosting Marquette’s image and notoriety.
However, Wild’s notable strides in restoring the university’s stature is not the only thing that comprises his lasting legacy.
Many students see Wild as an inspirational spiritual leader. Wild made connecting with students personally a priority. Every month, Wild holds monthly luncheons with interested students. Regularly taking time out of his busy schedule to meet students is something to be recognized.
Wild also was instrumental in creating the university’s current mission statement, which defines Marquette’s ideology. His efforts as a spiritual leader have ensured this Catholic, Jesuit university remains solidified in religious foundation.
But Wild’s tenure at Marquette was not without controversy. Within the last two years, Wild faced two incidents that gained national attention.
Recently, allegations surfaced regarding his prior position with the Chicago Jesuits of neglecting evidence of a clergy committing sexual abuse.
Wild was also caught in the crossfire of the Jodi O’Brien scandal last year.
Even though these controversies occurred, it should not tarnish Wild’s reputation as an influential part of Marquette history. Wild’s positive impact on the university far outweighs the accusations against him. In the end, Wild should be remembered as one of the university’s most transformational leaders.
Pilarz, you have some big shoes to fill. But you are also entering a university that offers you a lot to work with and is in a far better state than when your predecessor took office.
Also, know that you are bound to make mistakes, but keep in mind that the positive impact you have on students, faculty and staff will leave a lasting mark on the university.
And most importantly, know that if the board of trustees selected you to follow after a president like Wild, they must think pretty highly of you.