Alumni National Awards

SPIRIT OF MARQUETTE AWARD (achievement before age 40)

GonringCatherine Spaulding Wessel, Arts ’07 u and Matthew R. Wessel, Comm ’03, Grad ’11
Milwaukee, Wis.

In the true Marquette spirit, Katie and Matt Wessel are committed to making a difference in the lives of others — with the help of authentic German-style pretzels. The couple launched Milwaukee Pretzel Company in 2013 after living and working for a year in Munich, Germany, and the business gives them daily opportunities to live out their faith and the Marquette mission. “The most rewarding part has been employing and mentoring some amazing people,” Matt says.

The Wessels want their company to be known not only for tasty pretzels and meaningful employment, but also for community engagement. As the company has expanded (in 2021 they opened a 20,000-square foot facility in Milwaukee and now distribute pretzels nationwide), they have contributed thousands of dollars to local organizations in Milwaukee.

“Owning our business is the most fulfilling when we integrate service and faith into our every day,” Katie explains. The Wessels’ years on campus ignited their faith as Matt volunteered with campus ministry and loved playing piano for the Tuesday night Mass at St. Joan of Arc Chapel. There, he met the late Fr. John Naus. Matt says the legendary priest’s compassion and sense of humor continue to inspire him. One of his ongoing passions is composing liturgical music, and their Catholic faith remains a guiding force for the couple. Matt recently composed a Mass setting for Catholic liturgical musicians and has been working on scoring a collection of psalm settings that he ultimately hopes to publish. Two of his more well-known songs, “Be With Me” and “Take, Lord” were written on campus during his undergrad years.

They leaned into that faith in 2014 when their first child, Randol Thomas, died just a few hours after being born prematurely. “It was the hardest thing we’ve ever gone through,” Katie says. They created a fund in Randol’s memory to raise money for research on premature birth, and the fund continues to grow through events including a golf tournament in Milwaukee’s Lake Park and an annual Oktoberfest celebration as well as annual contributions from their pretzel business. Katie is also a member of the NICU Parent Advisory Committee at Children’s Wisconsin. The Wessels now have three young children and say parenting and family are sources of joy for them.

That sense of family carries strong Marquette ties. Katie’s father and three sisters are alumni as are Matt’s six siblings and his grandfather, who also taught at the university. The couple met through Matt’s younger twin sisters, who were Katie’s roommates in Campus Town, a fact over which Matt admits he endured “no shortage of teasing from friends.”

“It means so much to accept this award along with Katie,” he says, “knowing how much this university has meant to both of us.” Matt calls the Marquette mission an “unspoken road map” for his life, while Katie is driven by the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola. “This award makes me even more energized to live the Marquette mission,” she says, “and go forth and set the world on fire.”

Fun Facts:

Katie studied German with Associate Professor John Pustejovsky at Marquette and speaks the language fluently.

Matt recently composed a Mass setting for Catholic liturgical musicians and has been working on scoring a collection of psalm settings that he ultimately hopes to publish.

u Celebrating their Marquette Reunion

Leave a congratulatory message for Katie and Matt!