In July 2018, Wendell Willis became the second Executive Director for the MPS Foundation leading the organization into its next phase for growth and philanthropic engagement. In this role, his activities center on working with the region's philanthropies, corporations, and individuals on a variety of impactful programs that deliver equity for the district's 78,000 students. The Milwaukee Business Journal recognized Wendell as one of its Pandemic Power Broker's due to his ability to lead, galvanize, and deliver unprecedented fundraising and emergency responses for the MPS families throughout 2020.
Wendell joined Milwaukee Public Schools In November 2015 as the district's second Chief Operating Officer and led the MPS departments of Business & Transportation, Communications & Marketing, Facilities & Maintenance, Recreation & Community Services and School Nutrition. Since joining the organization, Wendell has continuously engaged, re-focused, and leveraged the departments' teams and strengths for an emphasis on student achievement rooted in equity, access, and opportunity for all students.
Wendell carries an extensive mix of for-profit and nonprofit managerial experience and impressive accomplishments in regards to his acumen in business development, community engagement, fundraising and technology.
Prior to joining the MPS leadership team, Wendell served as the Vice President of Operations and Corporate Officer of Ways to Work from 2008 to 2015. Under his watch, the organization achieved unprecedented scaling and replication efforts by expanding the program into 22 states with 50 offices, and increasing the loan portfolio from $1M to $9M by 2015.
He has served as a non profit leader for a local community / neighborhood center and has worked for local and national firms such as HNI Risk Services, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, McLeodUSA and Assurant in the areas of risk management, sales, marketing and IT support.
Wendell is a member of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee and a board member. He also serves as a board director for the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Ascension SE WI Hospitals, Sharp Literacy, Milwaukee County Zoological Society, and Northwest Side Community Development Corporation.
Wendell is a Milwaukee native and graduate of Rufus King High School and Northwestern University. He was selected to participate in the first Annie E. Casey CDFI Leadership Learning Program, Marquette University's Future Milwaukee Leadership Program, and the University of Michigan's Executive Leadership Institute. He and his wife have three children, two currently in attendance at MPS, and the oldest now a proud alum of Milwaukee Public Schools, attending DePaul University.