Father Robert J. Wild, S.J., president of Marquette University since 1996, has announced he will be retiring in June of 2011. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wild said that the time was right for him to step down and make an easy transition for the University's next president.
Wild has been at the forefront of a miniature renaissance for the Jesuit university, and during his tenure, Marquette has expanded their influence within Milwaukee, the national academic community and the NCAA.
Listing out all his accomplishments would take this column over the preferred word limit, but to be brief, Father Wild's contributions to the Marquette community were many. First, he pioneered a beautification effort around campus, erecting statues, adding boulevards to the main road and purchasing surrounding properties for campus-owned student housing. These initiatives, though seemingly minor, increased the aesthetic value of the campus, improving perception of prospective students and their families.
He's also been at the forefront of massive expansion in the form of academic buildings. Since 1996, Marquette has opened a new dental school, completely revamped and expanded the student library, opened a new athletic facility and offices, built a new administration and student services building, will be opening a new law school and breaking ground on the first phase of a new $100 million engineering complex.
Additionally, he oversaw the transition of Marquette athletics from Conference USA to the Big East. The transition has extended the Marquette athletics brand higher into the college sports world and brought in extremely high revenues for the University.
Most importantly, Marquette's academic standings and enrollment have increased dramatically since Father Wild took over in 1996. Marquette now ranks 84th nationally on America's Best Colleges, released by U.S. News and World Report.
His tenure was not perfect, however, as he was blamed for the public relations fiasco that was the Marquette athletic nickname, the "Gold." In 2004, his board of trustees changed the name abruptly from "Golden Eagles" to "Gold" amongst calls to revert to the previous name, the "Warriors." Outrage and embarassment flooded the campus and Father Wild, who at the time admitted to not "winning hearts and minds," started over with a survey for students and alumni to pick the name. "Golden Eagles" came out on top and is the nickname today.
Although his controversies came and went, his contributions will always be remembered and redeemed. His tenure at Marquette was arguably the most successful from almost every angle. Through academics, campus improvement, fundraising and athletics, Father Wild set a precedent for University advancement.