UW-Madison Accepts $20M Gift for New Rec Facility

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The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s long-time student rec center, the Southeast Recreation Facility (SERF), has been demolished and anticipation for its replacement continues to build.

On Tuesday the university announced a $20 million donation in honor of the late Albert Nicholas that was made by his widow Nancy. The new facility will bear the couple’s name — the Nicholas Recreation Center, or “the Nick” for short. 

“The main thing is that we wanted to do something that supports many students,” said Nancy Nicholas in a statement posted to the university website. “Endowed scholarships only support one or two students at a time. The Rec Sports project is something that all students can benefit from.”

John Horn, the director of UW–Madison’s Division of Recreational Sports, said the gift includes $15 million toward the construction of the Nicholas Recreation Center, and another $5 million toward building an Olympic-size swimming pool, which will be housed at the center and shared between Rec Sports and the UW’s varsity swimming team.

Nancy and Albert Nicholas have been longtime donors to the university, contributing tens of millions of dollars to various university causes, including a $50 million matching gift in 2015 that went to support UW-Madison scholarships. Albert was a standout varsity basketball player in the late 1940s and early '50s. He was twice selected first-team all-Big Ten and was drafted by the NBA. He skipped playing professionally to enter the military and then returned to Madison where he earned his degree in business, eventually starting the Nicholas Company, a Milwaukee-based investment firm. The Badgers' practice gymnasium bears the Nicholas name, based on a $10 million donation.

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