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NMU Foundation & Alumni Relations

Future Forward



NMU Hockey Endowment Will Heighten Program

Marquette couple Bob Cowell and Kathleen Olivier have established a multi-year, $1 million endowment for Northern Michigan University’s hockey program. The longtime Wildcat fans said they hope their gift serves as a catalyst for generating additional private support critical to helping NMU compete with larger Division I programs in recruiting top talent and achieving sustained success.

“Private donors bring extras to athletics that aren’t covered by operational budgets,” said Cowell, a retired CPA. “They allow coaches—especially those from smaller schools like Northern—to gain more equal footing with the big schools. We wanted to provide a discretionary fund that would give coaches now and in the future additional arrows in the quiver when it comes to recruiting.

“We don’t have the huge facilities or large community fan base in Marquette that bigger college towns have. Selling tickets isn’t enough to support the program here; it takes private money to increase the quality and compete with larger D-I programs.”

“If you look at the size of Marquette and the seating capacity of the Berry Events Center, you’re essentially relying on 10 percent of the population to attend every weekend to sell out,” added Olivier, a 1983 computer systems alumna who retired from a career managing Northern’s library automation systems. “That’s just not realistic most of the time.”  

The financial commitment is the couple’s most recent injection of funding into the program. Last year, they contributed to the Wildcats’ team room renovation project.

“Bob and Kathy have a long history of supporting NMU and NMU hockey, and this gift has the ability to transform the student-athlete experience for generations to come,” said Wildcat Head Coach Grant Potulny. “Donor support is the future of college athletics, and Bob and Kathy have moved NMU hockey to the forefront of where college hockey is trending. To have support like this for the student-athlete experience at NMU will create a lifetime of memories for our players.”

Cowell said he likes to tell current players that he has been a fan of Wildcat hockey for longer than they’ve been alive. In fact, he has followed the program since its inception in 1976. He later became a member of the former Blueline Club affinity organization and served as its president for more than 20 years.

Olivier is a Marquette native whose initiation to hockey began when she lost an undisclosed bet with Cowell while they were dating. The stakes required her to accompany him to a game at the Wildcats’ former home venue of Lakeview Arena.

Three grandsons of the couple play youth hockey in Marquette. Perhaps one of them will someday sport a Wildcat jersey, boosting Cowell’s and Olivier’s enthusiasm for the program even more.

"Bob and Kathy have a long history of supporting NMU and NMU hcokey, and this gift has the ability to transform the student-athlete experience for generations to come."

- Head Coach Grant Potulny



Bob and Meredith Kulisheck

Bob and Meredith Kulisheck retired from NMU in 2008, after serving more than 30 years as professors in the Departments of Political Science/Public Administration and Mathematics/Computer Science. The couple recently established a number of full-tuition scholarships for juniors and seniors in both of their former departments.

They have also made contributions to other important Northern programs, including the Student Leader Fellowship Program, Northern Climate Network, Construction Management Program, WNMU-FM and WNMU-TV.

“Northern was an excellent place to work,” said Meredith, while Bob added, “We have come to a point in our lives where we now have the opportunity to fund scholarships for a few students, and also provide some assistance to other especially innovative programs.”

“The Kulishecks leave an indelible legacy on NMU history, especially for students,” said NMU President Kerri Schuiling. “I can say this definitively because I was fortunate enough to have one of them, Bob, as a teacher during my time as an NMU student. He quickly became one of my favorites because although he set the bar high, he worked with each student to help us reach the bar; he wanted each of us to succeed. Friends of mine who had Meredith as a professor shared similar sentiments about her teaching skills and care and concern for students.  We are indeed thankful for their wonderful generosity and ongoing support.”


Ben Lauren

Ben Lauren

The family of Ben Lauren, an alumnus who was tragically killed in the line of duty as a volunteer firefighter at age 23, has established an endowed scholarship in his memory to support NMU mechanical engineering technology students. Lauren graduated from the program in 2018.

“Ben loved the education he received at Northern,” said his dad, Ron, who earned a financial management degree from NMU in 1997. “All of the professors were helpful and loved having him in class. Ben loved the department, too. Before he even graduated, he had a job at Verso paper in Escanaba.”

Lauren was a third-generation volunteer firefighter for Forsyth Township. He joined the department as a cadet at age 14, was certified as a firefighter at 18 and became a captain at 22. Lauren is also survived by two younger siblings: brother Levi, a 2021 NMU nursing graduate; and sister Tori, who joined the Forsyth Township Fire Department three years ago. His parents channeled their grief into doing good works on behalf of others by establishing a foundation in Ben’s name to help students pursuing higher education. The foundation contributed funds to create the Ben Lauren Scholarship at NMU. Among other support, it also donated a thermal imaging camera to the Marquette County Rescue 131 team. The camera is capable of detecting hot spots, sources of a fire and fallen firefighters and victims.


Dale Kapla, Paul Mann, Kerri Schuiling

Paul Mann

Paul Mann of NMU’s School of Clinical Sciences is the 2022 recipient of the Stephen Young & Tricia Kinley Distinguished Faculty Award, NMU’s top honor for significant professional contributions to teaching, scholarship and service. Mann is associate dean and director of the school in addition to professor. He is also involved in glioblastoma research as a member of the Upper Michigan Brain Tumor Center. In that capacity, he helps students conduct research using molecular diagnostic and basic cell biology techniques. His major focus is developing rapid molecular diagnostic methods for glioma biomarkers. Mann’s expertise was called on to lead the university’s COVID-19 response, for which he also trained students to assist with NMU’s mass testing. 

Mann holds a doctorate in pathobiology and biomedical studies from Pennsylvania State University, a certificate in clinical laboratory science from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Methodist College in Fayetteville, N.C. He spent 27 years in the U.S. Army, serving in various lab management and educational assignments to include two tours in Iraq. Upon retirement from the military, he joined the NMU faculty in 2014. His professional activities include serving on the American Society of Clinical Pathologies molecular biology exam committee, which develops questions for the certification exam.

Northern Now: Alumni Digital Event Series

On the second Wednesday of every month is a digital event series for alumni and friends, presented by Northern Michigan University Alumni Relations.

Northern Now features:

  • Panel Discussions. Hear from alumni experts as they discuss relevant topics in the field
  • Cooking segments. Chef Alden Griffus CCC ‘10 shares seasonal recipes
  • Presentations. A behind-the-scenes look at campus with exclusive tours and interviews
  • Plus much more!


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