The Marquette University community mourns the loss of a close friend and generous benefactor, Patricia Kern. She passed away on August 24, 2017 at the age of 88.
“We will miss Patricia greatly, yet her generosity will live on through the remarkable support the Kern family has provided to the university and our students,” said Marquette President Michael R. Lovell. “We are inspired by the Kerns’ passion for educating the next generation of engineering students. That will be their lasting legacy at Marquette and across our community. On behalf of everyone at Marquette, we offer prayers for Patricia’s husband, Robert, and all of their family and friends.”
In 2007, Patricia and Robert Kern gave a personal gift of $15 million to Marquette University’s Opus College of Engineering to help transform engineering education. This was one of the foundational gifts that led to the construction of Marquette’s Engineering Hall, which opened in 2011.
“We join the Milwaukee community in mourning Patricia’s passing,” said Dr. Kristina M. Ropella, Opus Dean of the Opus College of Engineering. “She and Robert have shown so much passion for engaging students in engineering and technology at an early age, getting them to think about engineering’s place in the world. They expressed that passion through their generosity, giving back to their community in many ways and through many different institutions. At Marquette, many of the engineering programs our students experience today can be directly traced back to their generosity. We send our deepest condolences to Robert and the entire Kern family, and commit ourselves to carrying on their legacy.”
In 1959, Robert and Patricia Kern founded Generac Power Systems, Inc. Originally run out of their garage with a single employee, it eventually became a 2,000‑person international company. When the company was sold in 2006, they established the Kern Family Foundation, chaired by Patricia.
Patricia served on the boards of several other organizations, including Northern Baptist Seminary, Green Lake Baptist Assembly, the Ten Chimneys Foundation and Old World Wisconsin. She played a lead role in establishing a scholarship program for aspiring pastoral ministry students that has assisted more than 700 students since 2002. Her obituary can be read here.
The Kern family and friends honored Patricia’s life at Cesarz, Charapata & Zinnecker Funeral Home on Thursday August 31, 2017.