Marquette University News Release

Longtime Milwaukee Public Schools teacher leaves $2 million estate gift for Marquette University

June 17, 2014

A Marquette University alumna, who spent her entire career teaching in Milwaukee Public Schools, bequeathed a $2 million estate gift to the university for endowed scholarship aid. The gift, which will be split between Marquette’s College of Education and Law School, is the largest donation in the College of Education’s history.

Bernadette Steep, who died on May 4, 2014, at age 92 in Gurnee, Ill., graduated from Marquette University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1944 and a Master of Education degree in 1967.

“This is a remarkable example of an alumna who dedicated her life to teaching and has now ensured her legacy will continue to live on in classrooms for generations to come,” said Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J., interim president. “Scholarship aid is essential to our pursuit of academic excellence, and we are extremely grateful to Bernadette for her generosity.”

Bernadette began teaching elementary school in 1958, and retired in 1987 from Milwaukee Public Schools’ Maple Tree Elementary School on Milwaukee’s far northwest side. Bernadette’s gift includes funds she first received from the estate of her sister, Mary Ann, who graduated from Marquette with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1953 and a law degree in 1990. Bernadette expressed her desire to continue to have an impact in education to honor the memory of her sister, Mary Ann, as well as Marquette’s community of Catholic, Jesuit priests.

Mary Ann, who died on Dec. 21, 2007, served nearly two decades as a private-practice attorney. Prior to her legal career, she worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield for 30 years, retiring as vice president of its actuarial department.

“The enormously generous gift from Bernadette is all the more meaningful to the College of Education, because of the many years she spent in skilled and passionate service to Milwaukee Public Schools and the abundant love she had for Marquette,” said Dr. William A. Henk, dean of the College of Education. “She kept both her students and our university near and dear to her heart throughout her lifetime, and her legacy will live on as her philanthropy impacts the future generations of teachers we will thoughtfully prepare.”

Scholarship momentum
Throughout Father Wild’s 15-year tenure as president and now interim president, he has stressed the importance of access to higher education, significantly increasing funding for student scholarship aid and creating scholarship programs specifically targeted at underserved populations. The $2 million gift is the second major gift toward scholarship aid in the past six months. In January, an anonymous benefactor gave $2.5 million to support need-based scholarships, a key priority identified in the university’s strategic plan that was unveiled in May of 2013.

Marquette provides more than $90 million per year in scholarship and grant support. Approximately 98 percent of undergraduates receive financial aid, which comes in the form of scholarships, grants, loans and student employment.

“A planned gift such as this is one of the best ways benefactors can make it possible for young women and men to pursue an education that will transform their lives,” said Michael K. VanDerhoef, vice president for university advancement. “This extraordinary gift will impact countless students in education and law in perpetuity.”

About the College of Education
For more than 90 years, Marquette University’s College of Education has helped prepare individuals to work as professionals in public and private school settings. The college’s undergraduate programs position students for teaching in elementary, middle and secondary schools, and graduate programs prepare students for several roles including: counselors who work in schools and other human service organizations, master teachers, school principals and superintendents, private practice counseling psychologists, and higher education faculty and administrators.

About the Law School
The Marquette University Law School has educated the region’s lawyers for more than 100 years. The Law School offers a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Sports Law. It also collaborates with a variety of university graduate programs to offer joint J.D./graduate degree programs. Students may also earn a Certificate in Litigation and/or a Certificate in Dispute Resolution as part of the Juris Doctor program. In 2008, the Law School opened Eckstein Hall, an $85 million building, made possible by a $51 million gift from Ray and Kay Eckstein, an alumni couple from Cassville, Wis. Each year, Eckstein Hall welcomes several thousand visitors and guests from the region to lectures, debates, town-hall meetings and conferences.

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About Brian Dorrington

Brian Dorrington

Brian is the senior director of university communication in the Office of Marketing and Communication. Contact Brian at (414) 288-4719 or View all posts by .