Kevin Newel | Keynote speaker
April 28, 2022
Written by Kristine Zaballos | Finn Hartnett Photos and Submissive Headshot
Kevin Newell embodies the first.
The first of his siblings to graduate from college.
The first African American to build and own a multi-family commercial development in downtown Milwaukee.
The first African-American to partner with an NBA team to develop a commercial entertainment district.
On May 15, 2022, he will achieve another first: serve as the keynote speaker for UW-Whitewater’s Spring 2022 Opening Ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 14, as well as a special opening ceremony. opening at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 15. to celebrate 2020 and 2021 graduates with a traditional in-person event for their friends and family members to attend.
A proud graduate of Milwaukee Public Schools, Newell arrived at UW-Whitewater in the fall of 2003, having submitted just one application to college. In high school, like many of his classmates, Newell hadn’t taken school very seriously. Of more than 500 students in his freshman class in high school, only 89 students would graduate – less than 1 in 5.
But he knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur and go to a top business school. So when Whitewater said “yes”, Newell decided to look no further. Coming from an inner-city high school that was 99% black, her first day on campus for orientation was an eye opener.
Led by his mother, Velma “Lorraine”, Newell was soon introduced to one of the few black faces in leadership – Mrs. Freda Briscoe, counselor for pre-business students.
“My mother being from Mississippi and Mrs. Briscoe from Arkansas, my mother knew she was leaving her son in good hands.”
From that day on, Newell affectionately referred to Ms Briscoe as ‘Momma Briscoe’ – and that hasn’t changed. With a guide on how to succeed on campus, Newell became very active with student organizations, including Pledge Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., where he served as chapter president and oversaw all Wisconsin chapters as Deputy State Director.
Newell earned a BBA in general management in 2007 and, a month later, graduated from Marquette University’s Commercial Real Estate Associate’s Program, or ACRE. He finished at the top of his ACRE class, which gave him the opportunity to intern at the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. He was hired full-time as Senior Underwriter/Asset Manager at WHEDA within six months.
In 2009, he obtained an MBA with a specialization in finance and management. And he quickly put his acumen in business, finance and real estate to good use.
In 2010, he founded Milwaukee-based Royal Capital Group, a venture capital and portfolio company focused on urban development and innovation. As CEO, he leads the company’s strategic efforts across multiple platforms, including real estate, healthcare, food and beverage, venture capital and technology, and social responsibility.
He was a real estate partner of the Milwaukee Bucks, as developer and owner of Five Fifty Ultra Lofts, a key business in the new billion-dollar live-work-play entertainment district.
In 2017, the Business Journal named him to its 40 under 40 list. He was also named National Top Real Estate Executive, Regional Top 75 Power Broker, and Top 48 Most Influential African Americans in Wisconsin.
Newell maintains close ties to campus, serving as a mentor and speaker, and recently delivered the keynote address for the 35th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Event. He also serves on the College of Business and Economics Advisory Board.
Newell shares two daughters with his college sweetheart, Kellee Wilbourn. In his spare time, he focuses on being a mentor and an active member in the community, serving on several boards that include finance, homelessness, health and wellness, and other areas. critical to the success of disenfranchised communities.
He attributes his time on campus to preparing him for the world. He models his actions after a favorite quote that also emphasizes the importance of being your most authentic self while maintaining a love and respect for all of humanity.
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with kings – without losing the common touch…” -Rudyard Kipling
For more information on UW-Whitewater’s commencement ceremonies, visit the commencement website at uww.edu/beginning.