Marquette University
Press Release

Entrepreneurial alumnus named Marquette University’s first innovator-in-residence

Chuck Swoboda, former CEO of Cree Inc., to educate next generation of innovative leaders within the Opus College of Engineering

By - Sep 25th, 2019 11:19 am
Chuck Swoboda. Photo courtesy of Marquette University.

Chuck Swoboda. Photo courtesy of Marquette University.

MILWAUKEE — Chuck Swoboda, a 1989 Opus College of Engineering alumnus and the former longtime CEO of Cree Inc., has begun serving as Marquette University’s first-ever innovator-in-residence. Swoboda spent nearly 25 years turning Cree Inc. from a $6 million company to a $1.6 billion organization that created an LED light bulb that transformed the company and changed the industry.

As part of his new role, Swoboda has launched a podcast called Innovators on Tap, which will highlight stories of innovators and thought leaders across a wide variety of fields who have “seen first-hand what it takes to challenge the status quo,” Swoboda, a Marquette trustee emeritus, said.

“I had the opportunity to witness innovation up close and personal every day, and I learned that innovation is fundamentally about leadership, not management,” Swoboda said. “It is a mindset to find a better way, and ultimately innovation is about people. It is an incredible honor to give back to my alma mater and to also learn from the next generation of innovators.”

President Michael R. Lovell has highlighted Innovation Alley as a key academic priority that aligns with the university’s strategic plan, Beyond Boundaries.

In addition to developing more leaders, Marquette University’s Innovation Alley will focus on engaging industry and creating new opportunities for students who have not previously had access to programs that promote innovative thinking and collaboration.

“Our students will benefit immensely from a proven CEO who embraces risk, sees change as opportunity and starts by developing each individual person,” said Dr. Kristina Ropella, Opus Dean of the Opus College of Engineering.

In April, Chuck and his wife Karen (a 1990 engineering alumna) committed $2.5 million to Marquette, dedicating $1 million of their gift to fund Innovation Alley leadership development initiatives.

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