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MPS honors the memory of Herb Kohl, U.S. senator and benefactor of teachers and students

Herb Kohl Photo

Milwaukee Public Schools is mourning the passing of former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, an MPS alumnus and advocate for education whose philanthropy directly benefited MPS students and educators.  

Kohl died Wednesday after a brief illness, according to reports. He was 88. 

“The passing of Senator Kohl is a true loss to the entire state of Wisconsin, but especially here in the MPS community,” said MPS Superintendent Dr. Keith P. Posley. 

“The generosity and support he has shown to MPS over the years are immeasurable. Senator Kohl, a Washington High School graduate, continued to support MPS throughout his life with the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation, his advocacy, and his presence in the community. His legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of the countless children and families he has helped over the years. I want to express my sincere condolences to the Kohl family. Senator Kohl will be deeply missed.” 

Herb Kohl - First Grade Class Photo at Sherman School - 3rd from right in the Front RowKohl grew up primarily in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood. He attended Sherman School, now Sherman Multicultural Arts School, at 5110 W. Locust St., before moving on to graduate from Washington High School, now Washington High School of Information Technology, at 2525 N. Sherman Blvd.  

Kohl, a multimillionaire whose family began the Kohl’s grocery store empire, made it his mission to “pay it forward.” 

Gifts from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation to the MPS Foundation have sent thousands of MPS students on field trips to Washington, D.C. This year is the seventh year of the trip, which sends 500 students to the nation’s capital for five days with all expenses paid. The students visit historical monuments, museums, lawmakers’ offices, and universities. 

Herb Kohl Philanthropies began with the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation in 1990. Its mission was to recognize students, teachers, and schools and to provide them with grants to support achievement in education, according to the philanthropies’ website. Since 2015, awards also have been given to principals.  

In addition to supporting students, teachers, and principals directly, Herb Kohl Philanthropies supports programs involving MPS, such as the Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership and the M³ (M-Cubed) College Connections collaboration involving MPS, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Milwaukee Area Technical College. 

Herb Kohl - Washington HS - Senior Photo 1952Over the years, the Educational Foundation has given more than $21 million in grants and scholarships. In 2023, nine students, 11 teachers, and one principal from MPS won scholarships and awards.  

After his foundation announced the 2023 awards, Kohl said, “These student, teacher, and principal award recipients have demonstrated incredible hard work, achievements, and service. I congratulate them all and hope this award not only helps them in their individual pursuits but also reminds them to pay it forward in the future.” 

Shantee Jude-Williams, the principal of Hawthorne Elementary School, won one of the statewide Leadership Awards for principals in 2023 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation. “He has been an advocate for educators and students, letting us know our contributions to children matter, and made sure we knew that through the foundation awards and the scholarships that were given out,” she said. “It was an honor just to receive that.”  

“I am deeply saddened by the news of Herb Kohl's passing,” said Mike Roemer, principal of Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School and a winner of the Kohl Leadership Award for principals in 2016. “He was a visionary leader, a generous philanthropist, and a champion of education in the state of Wisconsin. He inspired me and many others to pursue excellence and innovation in our schools.”  


Stephen Davis, Media Relations Manager
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