Robert d. and patricia e. kern
Maybe you remember the 2006 story about a couple who spontaneously mailed checks — some of them in the tens of thousands of dollars — to employees of Generac Power Systems a few days before Christmas.
Or perhaps you recall a 2002 donation to create Marquette’s Discovery Learning Complex, a hands-on learning lab that would serve as a catalyst to revamp the university’s engineering curriculum. And how about a $15 million gift earmarked toward constructing the Discovery Learning Complex?
Robert and Patricia Kern, who in 1959 founded Generac in a rented garage and in 1999 formed the Kern Family Foundation, are behind all that giving and much more, quite simply, because they believe it’s time to give back to areas they believe are important.
And engineering is one of them.
“The foundation for ongoing quality of life is based on character and education,” says Patricia. “Education in today’s world needs greater focus on math and science,” which is one of the main focuses of the Kern Family Foundation.
Their vision is compatible with Marquette’s. As home to the largest college of engineering within any Catholic university in the country, Marquette is aggressively working to transform engineering education and develop leaders for the 21st century. Likewise, the Kerns’ Project Lead The Way program inspires middle and high school students to develop an interest in engineering.
Marquette is one of five Wisconsin universities and colleges partnering in Project Lead The Way, working with teachers and students to better understand engineering principles. So far, 13 of the program’s participants have enrolled in Marquette’s engineering school.
The Kern Family Foundation has touched numerous other students as well with a $50,000 donation to develop student transformation through innovation exercises. Engineering professors, along with the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship housed in Marquette’s College of Business Administration, design exercises for students to develop skills for innovative design and the ability to recognize and quickly act on commercial opportunities.
“Marquette is a leading local educational institution in which we have great confidence to grow their engineering program,” says Patricia.
With help from the Kerns, they’re well on their way.