A Fitting Honor for a Friend

“Toolbox” crew dedicates lounge in the new Marquette Business building to alumnus John Taphorn.

Photo courtesy of Findoff

By Christopher Stolarski

When the dilapidated near-campus home they were renting was to be condemned just weeks before the start of the 1992 fall semester, eight Marquette juniors had all but declared themselves homeless.

Their friend John Taphorn figured it out. The 1994 alumnus shrewdly negotiated a $1,000 monthly rent down the street, and they moved into the new home they would affectionately dub “The Toolbox.” There, they forged lifelong friendships.

Taphorn — “Tapper” to his friends — died in November 2019 after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 47.

Housemates Frank Esposito and Liam Lawrence fondly remember Taphorn as a magnetic guy with a wry smile and an undeterred spirit. A guy who loved Marquette, a good beer and all things Milwaukee.

“I will never forget the first time I met John,” Esposito, Bus Ad ’94, recalls. “Just the look on his face. He just had this affable smile, kind of looking over his shoulder.” 

John Taphorn

“It’s like he always knew a little bit more than you about what was going on and where we should be going next,” Lawrence, Arts ’94, adds. “We called him ‘the mayor.’” Taphorn, they say, was always a step ahead — the guy who could figure it out. “His easygoing way could fool you, but the reality was, John was incredibly smart,” Lawrence says.

So, when the opportunity arose to honor their late friend, Esposito and Lawrence figured it out. With their friend and Taphorn’s wife, Sheila (McGinn) Taphorn, Comm ’94, and the support of the College of Business Administration and University Advancement, the Toolbox crew set out to raise $500,000 to recognize Tapper in the new home for Marquette Business on 16th Street and Wisconsin Avenue.

Appealing to friends, family and neighbors, Esposito, Lawrence, fellow housemates Jack Burke and Matt Ruder, both Comm ’94, John’s brother Vito Taphorn, Bus Ad ’98, and Sheila Taphorn helped raise the money in short order. So quickly, in fact, that they reached $750,000 within six months. Several months later, $1 million was in sight.

Through these friends’ generosity and leadership, the university easily hit the mark. When the new business building opens later this year, its student lounge will bear the name John Patrick Taphorn.

“When this idea was floated, we immediately recognized it was different,” Lawrence says. “It made us smile, even laugh a little — almost like it was an inside joke: a lounge named in honor of our buddy, John Taphorn. ‘The Tapper Lounge.’ In the business school. Perfect.”

“More than anything, this was really a testament to John and Sheila’s relationships with so many people,” Esposito adds.

Now these lifelong friends most look forward to joining Sheila and the Taphorns’ three children — Madeline, Catherine and Jack, all Marquette students — in John’s eponymous lounge, located between the Applied Investment Management lab and the café.

A fitting location and tribute for Tapper, the former investment manager with the knowing smile whose flair for bringing friends together lives on.