The Marquette University community mourns the loss of Robert Kern, a longtime friend and benefactor of the university and the Opus College of Engineering. Kern served as the founder of Generac Power Systems and co-founder of the Kern Family Foundation.
In 2007, Kern and his wife, Patricia, 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.
Kern was a prominent Milwaukee entrepreneur, business leader and philanthropist. 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.
“Bob’s powerful legacy will shape engineering education for generations to come,” President Michael R. Lovell said. “Bob had a passion for innovation and a deeply generous spirit; he and the Kern Family Foundation were among our first supporters of creating a culture of innovation across campus. Our entire Marquette community expresses our sincere sympathy to the Kern family.”
Dr. Kristina Ropella, Opus dean, has collaborated closely with the Kern Family Foundation and the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN). “As we prepare engineering leaders of the future, we do so with the vision and legacy of Bob and Patricia Kern,” Ropella said. “I am grateful for Bob’s generosity toward the Opus College of Engineering to educate engineers dedicated to creating value and serving others, just as Bob did his entire lifetime. This is a loss for Marquette, Wisconsin, and the engineering profession.”