Marquette campus in the spring.

Bridging Worlds: Alumnus gives back to help international students at Marquette

Photo of Bill Lagano

In his global insurance career, Bill Lagano traveled 4.5 million miles. That amounts to more than 1,000 trips from New York City’s Ellis Island to Paris. But it was the trips that others could not afford to take that inspired him and his wife Pam to give back.

The Laganos found that everywhere they went in the world, they heard a similar wish. “When we talked with local residents about their desires to come to America, we heard so often, ‘It is our dream, but we can’t afford it,’ ” Bill said.

He and Pam decided to help by making a generous estate pledge toward endowed scholarship for international graduate students at Marquette.

“We wanted to give students the opportunity to study at a great university on a daily basis,” said Bill, who earned his master of arts in history through Marquette’s graduate school in 1981. “Education means a lot to me. It’s the source of all good.”

Bill’s parents were first-generation Americans; his ancestors emigrated from Italy through Ellis Island and eventually settled in Connecticut. For him and Pam, international travel has been a way of life.

They spend a month each year visiting friends in Italy. They’ve also hosted international students from countries like Italy, France, and Russia and volunteered in Africa, Bosnia, Poland, and Romania.

Pam and Bill Lagano love cultural experiences like these in Italy—something their gift will champion for international graduate students.

“We’ve always enjoyed traveling. The thrill for us comes from the relationships we form with people of diverse cultures in different countries. It gives us a chance to see life through their eyes,” Pam said.

Their international volunteer experiences have shown them how truly life changing it is for youth to experience different cultures. “We both wanted to travel abroad in college, and now we can help students around the world have that experience by coming to Marquette,” Bill said.

The hope is that earning an advanced degree will give international students a leg up in their careers, whether they choose to work in the States, in Europe, or elsewhere. Immersive learning in another culture will distinguish them from their peers.

The Laganos also see reciprocal good from the scholarship, both for international student recipients and for those at Marquette who will interact with them and learn new cultural perspectives.

“I grew up seeing the good that comes from philanthropy, and I’ve always believed in giving back to industry, community, and school,” Bill said.

“My experience at Marquette was absolutely fabulous,” he continued. “I made a lot of great friends, loved the teachers. That’s what I hope for these students. It’s meaningful while you’re there; but years after the thoughts sink in, the true value comes through. To be able to do something on behalf of Marquette brings it full circle because the university did so much for me. We’ve been fortunate economically, and it’s a joy to help students along the way.”


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