Marquette President Michael Lovell dies after 3-year cancer battle

Marquette University President Michael Lovell died on Sunday, June 9 after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 57.

University officials said Lovell passed away in Rome while on a mission trip.

"Together, we pray for President Lovell’s family, especially his wife Amy, his children, and his friends, as well as for all members of our Marquette and Milwaukee communities, as we grieve this immeasurable loss," the university posted on its Facebook page.

SIGN UP TODAY: Get daily headlines, breaking news emails from FOX6 News

An overcast sky sat over Marquette University as somber hearts mourned the loss.

"I know he was a great president," said Fanqui Zhao, a graduate student. "I feel sad for his wife, his children and everybody he loves."

Michael Lovell

"To me it’s like a double loss – as a university professor, but also as a man of faith," said Isabelle Cherney, Mount Mary University president. "In so many ways, I looked up to him because he was able to expand Marquette in amazing ways and still keep a very deep Jesuit mission.

"I know for Marquette it’s a huge huge loss."

FREE DOWNLOAD: Get breaking news alerts in the FOX6 News app for iOS or Android.

When Lovell announced his rare cancer diagnosis in 2021, he was 54 and in seemingly great physical shape. The avid runner said his faith helped him process and accept the unknown.

"I thought that was an important step to take. To have God take control of it instead of me worrying about it all the time," he told FOX6 in 2022, a little more than a year into his battle with sarcoma.


Marquette University president shares cancer story

Marquette University President Michael Lovell spoke to FOX6 about his rare cancer diagnosis, treatment and journey to where he is today.

Lovell was elected as Marquette University's 24th president in 2014 – becoming the first lay person to lead the school – after serving as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee chancellor. 

The university said resources are available for the campus community through Campus Ministry, the Faber Center, the Counseling Center and the Employee Assistance Program – which is available 24/7. 

A campus prayer vigil is being planned, the university said. Funeral arrangements will be shared in Marquette Today when they are available.

Official reaction

Marquette University Board Chair Todd Adams, Provost and Executive Vice President Kimo Ah Yun and Executive Vice President and COO Joel Pogodzinski

"Together, we pray for President Lovell’s family, especially his wife Amy, his children, and his friends, as well as for all members of our Marquette and Milwaukee communities, as we grieve this immeasurable loss.

"President Lovell and Amy were in Rome with members of the Society of Jesus and the Board of Trustees on a Jesuit formation pilgrimage when President Lovell fell ill and was taken to a hospital in Rome.

"President Lovell’s decade of leadership at Marquette was marked by a deep commitment to innovation, entrepreneurship, and community renewal and development — consistent with the university’s Catholic, Jesuit mission that animated him. An entrepreneur at heart, President Lovell pushed Marquette and Milwaukee to ask what could be rather than settling for the status quo. Throughout his presidency, he attended hundreds of campus events each year and continued to teach undergraduate students in his product realization class, saying that he gained great energy from his interactions with students, faculty and staff.

"A fixture of the Milwaukee community, President Lovell served on multiple local boards and national higher ed consortiums, where his peers valued his collaborative spirit, humility and ability to advance complex ideas. Together, President Lovell and Amy were trailblazers in directly addressing our region’s mental health issues. His contributions to Marquette will be remembered forever, just as his loss echoes throughout our community."

UWM Chancellor Mark Mone

I’m deeply saddened to share the news that Marquette University President and former UWM Chancellor Michael Lovell has passed. Mike’s impact on UWM, Marquette and the greater Milwaukee community was immense, and so is the grief we all feel upon learning of his loss. We will forever admire his dedication to improving lives through education and the selflessness with which he served so many. The UWM community stands with the Marquette family, his loved ones and all those whose lives he touched.

Mike joined UWM as College of Engineering & Applied Science dean in 2008 and became our eighth chancellor in 2011. His distinguished record of success continued after Marquette University named him its president in 2014. Mike’s leadership of southeastern Wisconsin’s two largest higher education institutions spanned 13 years – a remarkable feat in today’s world. Mike and I, and our institutions, together forged unprecedented relations that have resulted in community impact in education, business, health care, water and other areas.

Mike was a dear friend to many of us and had a profound influence on me. Whether it was working out with students, modeling a positive spirit, planning the next strategic partnership, or inspiring employees with a clear, strong vision for how we could better educate, conduct research, or engage in the community, Mike’s energy and enthusiasm were contagious. He was an engaged, highly effective leader who is already missed.

My family’s prayers go out to Amy, all the Lovells, and the Marquette community, sharing your deep sense of sorrow and pain. I am assured that Mike is now at rest in a good place, closer to God, in fitting with his deep Catholic faith.

Support is available for UWM employees through Acentra Health at 833-539-7285 or online at Sign in using UWM’s password: SOWI.

The UWM community joins everyone at Marquette in mourning a leader who changed all of us for the better and left a legacy of spirit, action and service.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson

"Marquette University has always been a great institution in Milwaukee; President Dr. Michael Lovell made Marquette a great community partner.

"His faith was deep, and his commitment to service went beyond the boundaries of the campus. He promoted community service, he worked to improve public safety, and his leadership with the Near West Side Partners elevated that organization in ways that would not have been possible without him.

"It is hard to overstate Mike’s role in higher education in Milwaukee.  For the past decade, he was the first lay leader of Marquette University.  Prior to that, Mike was Chancellor Lovell, the leader of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

"Equally impressive was Mike’s kindness and humility.  He was a gentle person who cared deeply about Milwaukee.  He served our community with distinction.

"I am greatly saddened by the passing of President Lovell.  My sympathy goes out to his family, to the Marquette community, and to everyone in Milwaukee whose lives were touched by this great man."

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers via X

I had great respect for Mike. He cared deeply about Milwaukee and the students and faculty he led, and I was always uplifted by his positive and professional manner. Truly a loss.

Kathy and I are sending our deepest condolences to his family, loved ones, and campus community.

Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) extends its deepest sympathies to the Marquette University community, the family and loved ones of Dr. Michael Lovell. His leadership and dedication to education have had a profound impact on Milwaukee. The future of our region is better because of his contributions. Our thoughts are with those who knew and admired Dr. Lovell during this difficult time.

Travis Diener, former Golden Eagles men's basketball player, via X

RIP to an incredible man. Dr. Lovell embodied everything that you would want in a leader – tough, humble, passionate, and energetic. His spirit will live on forever.

Milwaukee Bucks via X

Doc Rivers, Bucks coach and former Golden Eagles men's basketball player

I’m saddened by the news of the passing of our beloved President Michael Lovell. He was a gentle giant. Dr. Lovell loved Marquette, and we loved him right back. He cared deeply about our students educationally. More importantly, he cared about their growth as people and future leaders in our community. My deepest condolences to his family. Thank you for sharing him with us. We are Marquette.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley

"It is with profound sadness that we mourn the loss of Dr. Michael Lovell, a man who stood as a pillar in our community and leaves behind a legacy that will be remembered for generations. Lovell was a leader. He was a relentless advocate for change, always present and eager to make a difference. His leadership was defined by empathy and compassion, qualities that touched everyone around him.

"Dr. Lovell’s thoughts were always with his students, his community, and the entirety of Milwaukee. He wanted nothing but the best for everyone. His unwavering commitment to improving our community has left an indelible mark on countless lives. His vision for a better Milwaukee and his tireless efforts to realize that vision have significantly shaped our city.

"My thoughts and condolences go out to his wife Amy, the Lovell family, the Marquette community, and everyone whose life he touched. His legacy is a testament to the incredible difference one person can make."

Milwaukee Area Technical College President Vicki Martin

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Marquette University President Michael Lovell. Mike was a great partner, and a remarkable leader with energy and vision, who shared the same passion for providing quality education to students in the Milwaukee area.   

When Mike was dean of engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he reached out to me and other higher education leaders in our city to foster collaboration. As chancellor of UWM, he continued partnering with us to improve transfer rates. Upon becoming president of Marquette, he worked with us to further expand our transfer partnerships.  

Recently, I collaborated with him on a podcast project, and he attended my retirement event with his wife, Amy. I was so grateful to see them both. Mike will be remembered fondly and greatly missed for uplifting our community and serving as a model of collaboration.

On behalf of MATC, I wish to extend our condolences to the Lovell family and express our gratitude for his inspiring leadership and commitment to the Milwaukee community. 

Greater Milwaukee Urban League President and CEO Eve Hall

We are all deeply saddened, and our hearts are heavy upon learning about the profound loss of Marquette University President Dr. Michael R. Lovell. His absence will be felt in our organization and in the lives of all those he touched.

Dr. Lovell was not just a Greater Milwaukee Urban League friend but a truly transformative figure. His advocacy for diversity and championing mental health issues and resources left an indelible mark on our organization and the community we serve.

In remembrance of his legacy, we will continue to reflect on his values and contributions to education. Greater Milwaukee Urban League was honored to award President Dr. Lovell the Wesley Scott Education Award at our annual Equal Opportunity Day luncheon in February 2022, a testament to his dedication and impact.

We are profoundly grateful to have had the privilege of working alongside President Dr. Lovell. His compassion and concern for others will forever remain a source of inspiration for all of us at Greater Milwaukee Urban League.

Milwaukee Ald. Robert Bauman

I was deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Marquette University President Dr. Michael Lovell yesterday. My prayers and condolences go to his loved ones and friends, and to everyone feeling his loss in the Marquette Community.

I will remember Dr. Lovell as an engaging and active leader in the community who made the Marquette-City of Milwaukee relationship a significant focus during his tenure as the leader of Marquette University. For instance, he along with business and community leaders helped found the Near Westside Partners, a critically important non-profit that has worked to revitalize and sustain businesses and residential neighborhoods with a goal of making the area a truly great place to live, work, and play.

Dr. Lovell and his wife, Amy Lovell, are also the co-founders of Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee, an organization that focuses on destigmatizing trauma and educating Milwaukeeans on how to handle trauma and reduce the effects of generational trauma. Dr. Lovell, with the help of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone, also founded the President’s and Chancellor’s Challenge, a grant program that provides funding for students who champion ideas that could tackle the root issues of poverty and its subsequent effects in Milwaukee.

Dr. Lovell was as committed and impactful a leader as we have seen at any level in Milwaukee, and we will deeply miss his innovative ideas, his wisdom, and his positive spirit.

May he rest in peace.