Raymond A. Eckstein, Law ’49
Kathryn A. Eckstein, Sp ’49
The scenic Mississippi River-town of Cassville, Wisconsin, circa 1949: population about 1,100. Number of people needing a young lawyer fresh from school: not many.
Yet, Ray Eckstein had a wife, and a baby on the way, a baby that would be the first of eight (and 28 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren with another on the way). This was no time to wonder how to make ends meet. So Ray found ways to support his family, such as finding legal work through his own firm and managing real estate deals.
But in the mid-1950s, Ray discovered an interest in river transportation and founded Wisconsin Barge Lines, eventually selling it and forming a new company called Marquette Transportation, named after the university and the French Jesuit priest who explored the Mississippi. Ray’s law degree came in handy as he ran and grew the company.
Fast forward to 2007. Ray and Kay Eckstein pledge $51 million to Marquette’s Law School, the largest gift ever made to Marquette.
“The reason we went as high as we did — at the time I didn’t know it would be the highest gift — was to spur others to give more generously than they thought they could,” Ray says. That way, he felt Marquette could more quickly start planning the new law building, which will be the public face of the university at the most prominent intersection in the state of Wisconsin: the Marquette interchange.
Ray says their gift is an expression of gratitude.
Not only was Ray happy with the solid Jesuit education he received in high school and college, but “I met my wife at Marquette. It was 1945. She was a freshman, and I was in medical school at the time. Kay majored in speech and graduated in 1949,” recalls Ray.
They got engaged on Valentine’s Day, 1947, and will be married 60 years this year. “So Marquette means a lot to us,” he says.
And the Eckstein's mean a lot to Marquette. On the day Robert A. Wild, S.J., called to inform the Eckstein's of their award, Ray recalls: “Father Wild said making the call was almost as nice as the one he received when I made the pledge for the law school. That was on his birthday!”
Ray knows the quality of his education contributed greatly to his success. “You have to have a good education to succeed, and Kay and I got that at Marquette.”