MPS Foundation: Executive director departs

MILWAUKEE (September 1, 2022) – Wendell Willis, MPS Foundation Executive Director, has announced he will be taking a new position after leading the Foundation since 2018. In his new role, Wendell will be spearheading a special initiative directed by Froedtert Health and the Milwaukee Bucks.

During his tenure, Willis led the MPS Foundation into its next phase of growth, expanded corporate and community partnerships, and raised a record amount of funding for MPS students and schools. Most notably, Wendell and the Foundation played a pivotal role in supporting MPS students and families throughout the pandemic, ensuring fundraising efforts provided access to basic household needs, school supplies, staff training, and internet access through the #ConnectMilwaukee campaign. These efforts were recognized in 2020 when the Milwaukee Business Journal named him a Pandemic Power Broker.

Wendell’s announcement letter to supporters can be found here.

“The MPS Foundation plays a unique, non-political, solutions-focused role in the community. As a separate 501c3, we can fundraise for initiatives and projects not included in the MPS budget and be a conduit for the business community and anyone that cares about public education in Milwaukee,” said John Kersey, MPS Foundation Board President. “There’s a lot more work to do, but Wendell’s efforts will have a major impact on the future of this city. In addition, we are truly grateful that Wendell will assist in the transition and then stay on as a Board Member.”

Wendell is a Milwaukee native and Rufus King High School alum. He and his wife have three children, one currently attending MPS and the two oldest, now proud alum of Milwaukee Public Schools, attending DePaul University and the University of Iowa, respectively. As such, this work was personal for Wendell, who looked at every new initiative and project through a lens of “equity in education.”  

“A major part of the MPS Foundation’s mission is to inspire and motivate the community to support the 75,000 students within MPS. That’s a crucial role to play in a city with as many inequities as Milwaukee does, and no one did it better than Wendell,” said Jackie Herd-Barber, MPS Foundation board member. “I am grateful for Wendell’s passion and leadership in bringing education equity to all children in Milwaukee, no matter the zip code.”

During his four years, Willis oversaw several high-level initiatives for the school district and helped position the MPS Foundation as a leading player in the city.

  • Providing pandemic support for online learning, including $2M raised for the #ConnectMilwaukee campaign
  • Revitalizing approximately 20 playfields, raising $800,000 on behalf of schools
  • Funding nearly $1M in scholarship support to MPS graduates
  • Sending tens of thousands of students to experiential learning opportunities and field trips, including $450,000 in donations from Herb Kohl Philanthropies
  • Offering numerous STEM and academic programs, one-of-a-kind music and arts programs, summer camps, and United Nations programming, including $300,000 in financial support annually from various partners

Wendell will continue to support the Foundation’s ongoing work and assist in welcoming and onboarding the new Director. In the coming weeks, the Foundation’s Board of Directors will announce the details of their forthcoming Executive Director search. They will be looking for a visionary leader who puts their shared dedication to the Foundation’s values and mission into daily practice.