Helping Peace Thrive

Marquette University
4 min readJan 10, 2022


Alumni couple supports community research at Center for Peacemaking

When John and Sue Byrne’s daughter, Jennifer, did an internship at the Center for Peacemaking during her graduate studies at Marquette, it offered eye-opening perspectives for the Byrne family.

“I was fascinated with the scope of the center’s work and what it was designed to do,” says John, Arts ’78, of Marquette’s distinctive Center for Peacemaking, which empowers students and the wider community to become spiritually-centered, nonviolent peacemakers through research and action.

“It’s more than just listening to people,” he says. “The center is training people to understand and address conflict. It’s very stats-driven.”

Students at Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking learn skills to understand and address conflict.

As a professional who built his career in preventing financial crime, John saw an uplifting alignment with the center’s goals. “What the center is doing translated into how my industry could make a difference,” he says. “Some elements of my professional work involve preventing terrible things like human trafficking, so when I saw what the center does in terms of conflict avoidance and helping cities, it really spoke to me.”

John forged an engaged relationship with the center. He featured Center Director Pat Kennelly on a finance industry podcast and helped to organize a Soup with Substance event through Marquette’s Campus Ministry that focused on preventing human trafficking.

“Pat’s personal energy and passion inspired us,” John says. “He’s curious and asks questions to get at the heart of true change and impact.”

Center for Peacemaking Director Pat Kennelly, right, talks through programming and impact.

Activating peace through research
Research is a key part of the center’s model for training peacemakers — one that bridges classroom-based peace education and tangible applied peacemaking.

John and his wife, Sue, Speech ’78, wanted to help enhance this model, so they established the John and Sue Byrne Endowed Fund for Community Research and Assistance.

“We hope to inspire students to conduct community research projects that will make a difference and leave behind collective learning and improvement,” John says. “The Center for Peacemaking’s focus is international, yet Milwaukee has local challenges, society has overall challenges too. The ability to start small with community research through this fund can grow into larger initiatives as well as visibility and awareness. It gives future students something to build upon.”

“With the world as it is, a place like Marquette, which is training people toward peace, is a place we want to see thrive. We’re excited to help in any small way we can and to encourage others.” — John Byrne, Arts ‘78

Support for peacemaking research dovetails with the Byrnes’ support for scholarship as well by offering resources for a deeper student experience that goes beyond initial access to Marquette.

“Students become ambassadors for peacemaking throughout their lives and across a variety of careers,” John says. “What they learn here is life-long. Other careers may culminate in more obvious financial benefits, but this helps students develop an ear for how to weave societal improvement into their 9-to-5. It’s both logical and a good connection to Marquette. The center is necessary and relevant now more than ever.”

Peacemaking leaders who learn through the center go on to make a difference in communities.

Building on Marquette memories
John and Sue carry fond memories of their time at Marquette. Besides meeting each other on campus — the start of a 40-plus-year marriage — they remember the celebration of the Marquette Men’s Basketball NCAA Championship win in 1977. “We ran to Lake Michigan in the pouring rain. Being part of that fandom was really special,” John says.

“If you share the Jesuit idea of helping society, a gift to Marquette in any way, shape or form will help to expand that. Marquette has a great track-record and a fantastic alumni network.” — John Byrne, Arts ‘78

Read more about how Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking has been — and continues to be — active in making a difference: