Paul Eberle is aware that most people look back on their high school experiences with rose-colored glasses. But he’s pretty certain that he’s right about the time he spent at Marquette University High School from 1979-83.
“I really do feel that time was impactful in many, many ways. It was a really great high school experience,” he said. “And I think it continues to be that for many kids today.”
The youngest of seven children growing up in Wauwatosa, the process of selecting MUHS for Eberle’s high school education wasn’t a complicated one. His three older brothers had attended before him, and his father was a 1943 graduate. “That’s where I was going, and I was happy to go,” he said.
His first memory of the school was theology class with Fr. Ed Larkin, who taught at the school for 22 years. “He was just the kindest, nicest man in the world, and I could give example after example of teachers from that time,” he said. “They were really great Jesuits who were really smart and great teachers but also just showed how God works in the world in a way that was different than I had learned in grade school. For me, from a religious perspective, I always think of grade school as being where we learned a lot about the God of the Old Testament. At Marquette High, I was really learning and coming to understand more of the person of Jesus as the brother, companion and friend that God is as well.”
Following his graduation from MUHS, Eberle attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he majored in English and met his now-wife Paula, a pediatric nurse. He began his career working for EMC Corp., a startup tech company in Boston, but Eberle struck out on his own soon after, starting Capital Data Inc., a hardware, software, services and leasing firm in 1989. He took some time off after selling Capital Data in 2005, until 2009, when he became one of the first non-lawyers to be tapped for the position of CEO of law firm Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek.
“It was kind of a dramatic change of direction,” said Eberle. In 2016, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek combined with the national law firm of Husch Blackwell and, in 2018, Eberle was named that company’s CEO. In that role, he is responsible for the overall direction, strategy and operations of the firm, which is the 100th largest law firm in the United States.
Pre-COVID, he spent a great deal of time traveling, keeping a pulse on the company’s 22 nationwide offices — spread everywhere from Phoenix to Denver to Washington, D.C., Austin and Chicago.
He said through it all he has tried to embrace the “servant leadership” model the Jesuits taught him.
“When you are in a leadership position in a law firm, you need to be a good listener, you need to try to understand and put the needs of everybody else in front. I don’t do that perfectly every day, and it’s an ongoing effort,” he said. “But that theme of putting your talents to serve others is certainly something that was very clearly taught and lived at Marquette High.”
He and Paula have 10 children, many of whom have attended Catholic schools, including MUHS and DSHA. Currently, his youngest child is an eighth-grader at St. Mary’s Visitation in Elm Grove, the same grade school that Eberle attended; his oldest grandchild is a kindergartener at the school. “This year I get to attend both the eighth-grade parent meeting and grandparents’ day,” he quipped.
Eberle said the foundation for his extensive involvement in service and volunteer work was laid during his time at MUHS. A former chair of the Guest House of Milwaukee and the initial chair of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School when the latter made its entrance to the Milwaukee scene, he said, “There is certainly an understanding that MUHS drilled in that your life is about service to others. I saw that example every day in the life of the lay and Jesuit teachers at Marquette High.”