Alumnus and NBA legend Dwyane Wade makes major gift to continue to grow literacy for inner-city children

Marquette University alumnus and NBA legend Dwyane Wade has given a major gift to the university’s Ralph C. Hartman Literacy and Learning Center to extend his Live to Dream Summer Reading Program through 2025.

His gift will continue to grow the highly successful summer reading program he initially funded through the Wade’s World Foundation in 2015. Wade said that he will rename the program after his sister, Tragil Wade-Johnson, who has been actively involved since they launched the effort in 2015 to curb the “summer slide” in reading achievement among inner-city Milwaukee school children. University leaders saw immediate educational gains in the participating students.

The three-time NBA champion and businessman was in Milwaukee recently to serve as undergraduate Commencement speaker at American Family Insurance Amphitheater on the Summerfest grounds. He received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree as part of the proceedings. The trip also afforded him the opportunity to share the news with Tragil and their mother, Pastor Jolinda Wade.

“Being able to work with kids and interact with them at an impressionable age is the best. To have the ability to help them in their educational and personal journeys is just incredible,” Wade said. “The community I come from, a lot of kids don’t have the resources or opportunities. For us to be able to provide some of those resources is something I thought about when I was a kid, having the ability to change my family’s fortunes. I was able to use basketball as a tool, but not everyone will have that chance. This program not only assists with the fundamentals of reading, but also provides the opportunity to interact with kids from other walks of life, develop communication skills and ultimately be exposed to experiences that they normally wouldn’t have encountered.”

In the first three years of the summer reading program, 131 second- and third-grade students — every single participant — either maintained or increased their reading level. The students receive 90 minutes of targeted reading instruction each day, plus either writing or integrated science and literacy instruction.

“Dwyane’s generous gift, built on his previous investment, is a big win for our city’s children in underserved populations,” President Michael R. Lovell said. “We’ve seen tremendous results since Dwyane launched this program, as kids are rising to new levels of literacy and learning. Further, he’s helping elementary students envision how higher education can impact their lives.”

President Lovell shared how inspired he was that Dwyane would name the program in honor of his sister and said, “Tragil’s energy and drive to help our young people is an inspiration.”

The Tragil Wade-Johnson Summer Reading Program will now run on the Marquette campus through 2025, and Wade is inviting additional supporters to help drive funding.

Participating students receive bus transportation and nutritious food and learn from instructors who teach from a top literacy curriculum that engages the students in directed listening sessions. They read to develop conceptual understanding and write to communicate explanations and results.

“The pandemic has revealed a significant instructional gap that has dramatically affected young students, particularly those coming from financially challenged homes,” said Dr. Heidi Bostic, dean of the College of Education. “This gift provides an important solution and offers children every opportunity to succeed.”

This gift adds to the growing momentum driving Marquette University’s Time to Rise comprehensive fundraising campaign.

“We’re thankful to Dwyane and Tragil for both their commitment to Marquette and their passion for helping young students thrive,” said Vice President for University Advancement Tim McMahon. “This gift builds on several years of momentum and will change the trajectory of the lives of many families in our community.”

Marquette’s $750 million fundraising campaign is the most ambitious in Marquette’s 141-year history. The campaign is elevating resources to advance the university’s mission and pillars of excellence, leadership, faith and service. The university has raised more than $578 million to date, amounting to 77% of its goal. More than 56,000 donors have already supported Time to Rise, including 46% of donors making their first ever gift to the university.