Jesuit Fr. Robert Wild, president of Marquette University, lights candles during an evening vigil March 20, 2003, on the campus. About 200 students, faculty and residents turned out for the “Keeping the Light” vigil. (Catholic Herald file photo by Sam Lucero)

MILWAUKEE — Jesuit Fr. Robert A. Wild, Marquette University’s president since 1996, announced Thursday, March 4 during his annual President’s Address he plans to retire, effective June 30, 2011, or until a successor takes office, whichever comes later.

Fr. Wild, Marquette University’s 22nd president came when the university faced fiscal difficulties and tense relationships with its urban neighborhood and the City of Milwaukee. “For several years people have been asking me when I’m going to retire,” Fr. Wild said in a March 4 press release. “I tell them I enjoy what I’m doing – and I do, but there comes a time when you know it’s right. This is that time, with the university in a strong position.”

Fr. Wild, who will turn 70 this month, raised more than $725 million for the university, including several eight-figure gifts that have accelerated construction projects such as the new law and engineering buildings, and added to the endowed funding for student scholarships. More than $350 million of construction, renovation and beautification projects will have been completed during his presidency, including the Al McGuire Center, Raynor Library, School of Dentistry and Zilber Hall, which led to economic development in the university’s near west side neighborhood.

Under Fr. Wild’s presidency, the university’s undergraduate applications increased from about 5,000 to nearly 20,000 for the fall of 2010, the funding for student financial aid increased and scholarship programs targeting underserved populations were created.

“I would not even contemplate my own retirement – even after 15 years – if Marquette wasn’t in such a good place, and if we didn’t have lots of talented leadership in place to support my successor, whoever he will be,” Fr. Wild said in the press release, stressing that he has a lot to accomplish yet, including fundraising for scholarships and for the university’s new law and engineering facilities, the appointment of new deans in the Klinger College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering, the opening of Eckstein Hall and construction of the new engineering building, which broke ground March 5.

Fr. Wild, a Chicago native, received his doctoral degree in New Testament and Christian origins from Harvard University. He has written two books, numerous scholarly articles, and is a member of several boards. Fr. Wild received the 2008 Chief Executive Leadership Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Region V, and it was under his leadership that Marquette University has been named a “Great College To Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education; one of Milwaukee’s “Best Places to Work” by the Management Association, in cooperation with Milwaukee Magazine; and one of the Business Journal’s “Top Places to Work.” He plans to take a year sabbatical when he retires.