Honoring Michael Rhodes Lovell, Ph.D. | March 20, 1967-June 9, 2024

“Success is the breadth and depth of the impact you make on the lives of others.” — Michael Rhodes Lovell

Michael Rhodes Lovell was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 20, 1967, to Susan Rhodes and Herbert Lovell. At the age of nine, he moved to Meadville, Pennsylvania. After high school, he traveled ninety miles south to attend the University of Pittsburgh. Junior year, Mike met Amy, a freshman, on Valentine’s Day weekend. That night, Mike dreamt he would marry her. The following day he asked Amy on a first date, to Sunday Mass. She politely declined as she had gone Saturday night. Fortunately, his persistence paid off, and she said yes to ice skating.

To talk about Mike, you must start with his faith, it dictated his every move. And his and Amy’s love was rooted in God. They married in 1993 and were blessed with 30 years of marriage and four children he adored. Although he had a demanding job, he somehow managed to balance that with being an amazing dad. Mike helped with preschool parties, dressed up with his girls, played Legos with his boys, went to sporting events and plays, taught them his love of running and took them on endless adventures. Friends often commented how unafraid he was to take four little kids to the grocery store. After work each day he would call home, ask what was needed and arrive with that – and tulips for Amy. Mike did everything with a smile, never complained, and was the last one to leave the kitchen clean up.

Mike went on to earn three University of Pittsburgh mechanical engineering degrees, including his doctorate in 1994. His professional life began as a development engineer for ANSYS Inc., but he soon realized his heart was in the teaching, learning and research of higher education. In 1996, he secured a faculty position at the University of Kentucky. In 1997, Mike was one of the youngest professors to receive the National Science Foundation Career Award. Three years later, his alma mater offered him the position of co-director of the Swanson Institute for Technical Excellence and executive director of the Swanson Center for Product Innovation – a complete development center for designing, prototyping, developing, and marketing new products and processes.

In 2003, he became the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Engineering Associate Dean for Research. Under his leadership, the school excelled in securing research funding, something Mike continued to excel at throughout his entire career. He collaborated across four universities to help create the National Science Foundation-funded Energy Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials. Mike holds many U.S. and global patents; the two he was most proud of were medical devices, one which improved outcomes for children needing intubation and the other which provided patients with non-invasive open-heart surgery options.  

In 2008, his career led him to Milwaukee to become Dean of the College of Engineering & Applied Science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This decision was made through prayerful discernment and Mike ultimately realizing his God-given talents were a perfect match for what UWM wanted to accomplish in engineering. Although he never stopped teaching, this moment changed the focus of his career to administrative leadership. Mike was subsequently named UWM’s interim chancellor and, in spring 2011, its chancellor. In 2014, Mike was persuaded to join Marquette University as its president. Mike never envisioned that this would be where his career would go, but God had a plan and Mike followed. Throughout a decade leading Marquette, he always prioritized students and sought to improve the overall student experience. He loved being in the classroom, working out in the Al McGuire Center with student-athletes, and attending as many sporting events, plays, and campus activities as his schedule would allow. Working at a Jesuit Catholic institution was a perfect fit for Mike as he lived his life in service to others. His Ignatian Colleagues Program in Chile inspired him to develop a Sacred Spaces Pilgrimage on campus and bring to life the Marian Grotto – in the most beautiful location for prayer and reflection, behind the campus’s St. Joan of Arc Chapel.

Mike’s talents, accomplishments, and accolades are impressive and wide-ranging. While additional achievements have been detailed in various tributes and are an undeniable part of his life and legacy, his enduring impact will be the everyday human moments he shared with those around him. This was his essence. Mike believed that his talents were to be shared to make an impact on others and to glorify God by doing this. He lived his life this way. His faith was central to who he was and from this, he had a clear vision for building a world that was better than he found it and a gift for creating spaces in which others felt truly seen, heard, and valued. To be holy and the best version of yourself you must master yourself. No one did that better than Mike. He was disciplined and made every minute count. He never counted the costs but gave the world his best every day despite how he felt or what he was battling inside.

His immense love for his family and friends, his unfailing integrity, and his quiet humility stand above all else. He was gentle and kind, always finding time to share his wisdom and care with those who needed it. He was soft-spoken, unpretentious, and highly collaborative, preferring to lead by example rather than through words alone. Mike brought a tireless work ethic and an intensity to everything he did. His boundless energy lifted all those around him, challenging them to reach for more than they ever thought possible. He saw potential in others before they saw it in themselves. Mike was an avid runner and triathlete, always chasing his athletic potential and inspiring others while he did it. Many people became marathon runners from running alongside him.

Mike had a sly sense of humor and often pranked his kids and wife with a sheepish grin on his face that gave it away. Mike enjoyed being with friends and family sharing his love of spicy foods and gummy candies. Some of his favorite ways to unplug on weekends were watching rom-coms, Dateline, and sports.  He never missed a rerun of Pitch Perfect. Mike loved all animals, especially dogs, sending videos and pictures to brighten his kids’ days. He was always positive and found the good in others. He was an incredibly resilient man, transforming the adversity he faced over the course of his life into the ability to connect with others.

If success is indeed, as he spontaneously said back in September 2014, “the breadth and depth of the impact you make on the lives of others,” there is no doubt that Mike far surpassed his own definition. The breadth and depth of his impact will be felt for generations. Heaven gained another saint on June 9th, 2024.

Mike joins in eternal rest his father, Herbert Lovell, his mother, Susan Luther, and his stepfather, Walter Luther; his grandparents, aunts, and uncles; and his cherished dog Bella. He is survived by his beloved wife Amy Lovell; his children Marissa, Matthew, Anna, and Kevin Lovell; his sister Catherine Lovell and her children Rachel, Marc, Isaac and Jimmy Jasper; his aunt, Judy Trissler and her family; his cousin George Bilderback III and his family; his mother-in-law Lucy Baumgartner, and his father-in-law Norman Baumgartner; sister-in-law Susan (Mark) Stella, and brothers-in-law Norman (Sheila) Baumgartner, and Jeff (Amanda) Baumgartner; nephews Eric (Holly) Stella, Lucas Stella, Peter Baumgartner, Maxwell Baumgartner, Will Baumgartner; nieces Marie Baumgartner and Maeve Baumgartner; his many friends and colleagues; and the family’s golden retriever, Remedy.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to the Marquette University Lovell Fund or to support sarcoma research. Visit mu.edu/honorlovell.