Marquette Business

Marquette alumni couple commits to major gift to establish interdisciplinary commercial real estate institute

Perry and Sheila Vieth pose with President Michael R. Lovell.

Marquette University President Michael R. Lovell announced today that Perry and Sheila Vieth, founding members of Marquette University’s President’s Advisory Council, have made a major gift to launch a new collaborative institute — the Vieth Institute for Real Estate Leadership.

The multi-million-dollar gift will establish one of the nation’s only interdisciplinary real estate institutes, harnessing the combined strengths and track record of tradition and innovation within three colleges — business, engineering and law.

Perry is a 1979 College of Business Administration graduate, and Sheila earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1980.

The Vieths’ gift elevates Marquette’s Center for Real Estate to an interdisciplinary institute and builds on previous philanthropic gifts from the family. In 2022, the Vieths established an endowed real estate directorship and strengthened real estate excellence funds in the College of Business Administration.

“Our Marquette education shaped our lives significantly and continues to positively impact our family,” Perry and Sheila Vieth said. “The university’s real estate education is built on a strong foundation. Our goal was to help create an interdisciplinary institute that will excel at applied learning and elevate Marquette’s important role in preparing the next generation of ethical leaders.”

Anchored in the new university strategic plan, Guided by Mission, Inspired to Change, President Lovell said the Vieth Institute is grounded in Catholic, Jesuit values and will grow applied learning.

“This is a timely gift as the future of higher education continues to trend toward experiential and interdisciplinary learning, where students intersect with industry leaders across professions and connect with experts in the marketplace,” President Lovell said. “We are grateful to Perry and Sheila for their vision and belief in Marquette and their drive to take us to the next level.”

Marquette’s undergraduate commercial real estate program is ranked 12th in the United States — the highest of any specialty program at the university — and has historically been ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

Two faculty researchers in the Center for Real Estate were recently ranked in the top 30 in the world. Twenty years ago, Marquette became the first of the nation’s 28 Catholic, Jesuit institutions to launch a major in real estate. Over the past 10 years, the program has maintained a nearly 100% career placement record. And, in 2021, the center launched the Real Estate Asset Program (REAP), one of the nation’s premier applied investment programs purely at the undergraduate level where students learn to analyze, pitch and asset manage a $2 million pledge equity fund of outside investment in actual real estate deals.

Drawing expertise across colleges

“What truly differentiates the Vieth Institute is the depth of faculty thought leaders across multiple colleges,” said Tim Hanley, acting Keyes Dean of the College of Business Administration. “We now have additional ability to address some of the most pressing industry and societal challenges. This generous gift will both strengthen current offerings and create new educational opportunities in pursuit of academic excellence.”

The Vieth Institute will draw experts from the Opus College of Engineering and Marquette Law School, led by deans Dr. Kristina Ropella and Joseph D. Kearney. Between 2017 and 2023, the construction engineering major grew by 80% in student enrollment. The Opus College of Engineering is well known nationally for its co-op program, a model of experiential learning. Construction engineering students, who are trained to work in unique locations and climates and known for adept problem solving, will help grow Marquette’s network of real estate connections.

Ropella also highlighted the opportunity for the Vieth Institute to collaborate with the university’s E-Lead program, which was founded in the Opus College of Engineering. The three-year curricular leadership and innovation program shapes students and is grounded in Jesuit values.

The Marquette University Law School has a robust Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic, offering synergies to develop similar applied learning platforms and extend connections into real estate law, environmental and intellectual property law, and business law. In addition, the Vieth Institute will harness the base of the student-run Real Estate Law Society.

Andrew Hunt, Vieth Director for the Center for Real Estate, emphasized the important platform the new institute will create to extend Marquette further into the community and pilot new, innovative ideas and programs.

With an additional long-term focus on diversifying the real estate field, Hunt also highlighted the institute’s ability to continue efforts in recruiting and retaining diverse professionals for careers in commercial real estate through the Associates in Commercial Real Estate (ACRE) professional training program and the MKE CRE Summer Immersion Program for high school students.

“We are excited to deepen our community impact around real estate development, investment, management, construction and law, and to continue our efforts to make these spaces inclusive for our students and alumni,” Hunt said. “We sincerely appreciate Perry and Sheila’s generosity, and the incredible partnership and alignment of the colleges of business, engineering and law, which together we believe will establish the nation’s premier, truly interdisciplinary real estate institute.”

Philanthropic growth continues

The gift from the Vieths adds to Marquette’s growing fundraising momentum. In January 2024, President Lovell announced that Marquette surpassed its $750 million goal in its historic Time to Rise campaign. More than 70,000 donors have contributed to Time to Rise with 52% of these donors making their first-ever gift to Marquette. The university is continuing to drive campaign fundraising through June 30, 2024.

“What Sheila and Perry have done in this latest gift will have an impact for generations,” said Vice President for University Advancement Tim McMahon. “In elevating the Center for Real Estate to the Vieth Institute, they will broaden the applied learning of our future Marquette real estate leaders and in so doing, help us take a bold step forward as a national leader in Jesuit, Catholic universities. We are humbled by their generosity and grateful for their steadfast belief in Marquette.”