Dwyane Wade is donating $3 million to Marquette University, just over two decades after leading the Golden Eagles to their last Final Four appearance.

Marquette announced the gift on January 15 as the Hall of Fame guard attended the 17th-ranked Golden Eagles’ game with Villanova.

“I’ve always talked about, when a door opens, not squeezing through that door and letting it close by me – holding it open,” Wade said at a halftime news conference. “This is an opportunity to hold that door open for our next generation.”

The three-time NBA champion, Olympic gold medalist, and entrepreneur served as Marquette’s 2022 undergraduate Commencement speaker, receiving an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Wade starred for Marquette from 2001-03 and helped the Golden Eagles reach the Final Four in 2003 before going on to become an eight-time all-NBA performer.

“Marquette shaped me into the person I am today. It means a great deal to me and my family to be able to give back to take the university to the next level,” Wade said. “My hope is to continue to transform lives through higher education.”

Wade’s gift will grow the school’s summer reading program for Milwaukee children, and establish a Wade Scholars program benefiting low-income students. Since 2015, the highly successful Tragil Wade-Johnson Summer Reading Program, named after Dwyane’s sister, has extensively reduced the “summer slide” in reading achievement among local school children.

“Literacy is a core focus area in our efforts to improve lives,” Wade-Johnson said. “We believe that every kid deserves a chance, and we are proud that year after year, every participant either maintains or increases their reading level.” The program is hosted in the Ralph C. Hartman Literacy and Learning Center.

Wade, who has cultivated a spirit of service and giving back to the Marquette community that spans nearly a decade, has encouraged the Marquette community to join him in his efforts.

“We are so thankful for this gift which will ensure that Milwaukee children will continue to strengthen their literacy skills, grow in knowledge and confidence, and get off to a good start with learning in the fall,” said Associate Professor and Hartman Center Director Dr. Kathleen Clark, who has led the program since its inception.

Clark shared that during a dedicated 90-minute reading block, children participate in phonological awareness and structured literacy instruction that targets their reading needs. They also participate in an additional hour of instruction in which literacy is integrated with another area, most often hands-on, inquiry science. Teachers instruct children in small groups, so children receive more one-on-one attention than is possible in a typical classroom setting.

The summer reading program was originally launched with funding from the Wade’s World Foundation and fundraising continues. Wade and former teammate Travis Diener host an annual Champions for Literacy event to raise additional funds for the program.

A portion of Wade’s gift will establish the Wade Scholars, benefiting low-income, high-achieving students. Two students per year will receive full room and board scholarships for their first two years on campus. The university’s Student Success initiative has highlighted the importance of living on campus, which allows students to live the full Marquette experience without the educational, psychological, and social ramifications of struggling with housing or commuting.

“Dwyane is widely known as a Marquette legend, a successful entrepreneur and a basketball Hall of Famer. This thoughtful and generous gift epitomizes who he is as a philanthropic leader and who he cares about — and we couldn’t be more grateful,” said Vice President for University Advancement Tim McMahon.

The gift to establish the Wade Scholars fulfills a vision Wade shared when he first launched the summer reading program. At that time in 2014, he said, “My hope is that the children will envision themselves as future Marquette students where they can one day transform their lives through higher education.

“Dwyane has been an inspiration across the world, and his legacy is so much bigger than basketball,” President Michael R. Lovell said. “We are proud of the way Dwyane represents our Marquette mission. His generous gift will make a major impact on the lives of our current students as well as future generations, and it will significantly elevate our men’s basketball program.”

Marquette’s historic Time to Rise campaign has prioritized scholarship gifts, building off the university’s longstanding commitment to access. The university has raised more than $300 million in scholarship funds during the campaign — 40% of the total funds raised.

More than 20% of current Marquette students are the first in their family to attend college. Under President Lovell’s leadership, Marquette has grown its Urban Scholars program in recent years, offering renewable scholarships to high-achieving low-income scholars with a history of leadership and service.

Wade was also committing a portion of his gift to a future project to expand the university’s Athletic and Human Performance Research Center (AHPRC), which will include a new practice facility for the men’s basketball program. The expansion will free up highly utilized space in the Al McGuire Center for the women’s basketball and volleyball programs, and increase tutoring, advising, and study space for all student-athletes.

“The games are when fans get the opportunity to come and enjoy all the hard work that’s put in behind the scenes,” Wade said. “But practice, that’s where my money was made. That’s where my legacy was built. And so for each kid that will come through this university to be able to see that name on that court, hopefully that’s the message, that they understand this is where legacy is built, this is where you take advantage of the opportunities given to you.”

The first phase of the AHPRC opened in 2019. As the university community continues to build momentum in its Time to Rise campaign, donors have expressed a philanthropic interest in supporting the second phase of the AHPRC. The facility remains in the fundraising and development phase.

“Dwyane has modeled what it means to be a person for others and a global ambassador of our Marquette Basketball program,” Vice President and Director of Athletics Bill Scholl said. “This gift will play a large role as we continue to create and sustain championship-level success.”

In recognition of this leadership gift, Marquette will name the men’s basketball practice facility court the Dwyane Wade Court. Marquette Men’s Basketball Head Coach Shaka Smart highlighted Wade’s importance to the culture of the nationally ranked men’s basketball program.

“From his playing days at Marquette to the way he leads today, Dwyane embodies our core values: relationships, growth, victory,” Smart said. “Dwyane’s legacy and impact continue to expand. Our current players truly appreciate his strong connection and commitment to our program, and our future student-athletes will be inspired to train on the court that will honor his name.”

Steve Megargee and MI Staff

Associated Press

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin

Wilfredo Lee (AP), National Basketball Association, and Marquette University