Every day before he went to work the second shift at the Kohler Company, Raymond Majerus would deliver a load of bricks down the street to where his local parish was building a school, quite literally helping to lay the foundation for what would be the center for his children's education.
Years later, that early education would serve as the first step for his eldest child, Rick, toward schooling at Marquette University, making Rick the first in his family to go to college.
It's that memory, coupled with Rick Majerus' legacy itself, that has fueled the Majerus Family Foundation to give a $1 million gift to Marquette, establishing the Rick Majerus Endowed Scholarship, honoring the late coach. The scholarship, which the school will announce Thursday, will provide tuition assistance to first-generation college students in the Helen Way Klingler College of Arts and Sciences and represents the largest scholarship gift to Klingler College in its history.
A 1970 graduate of Marquette with a degree in history, Majerus spent 12 years as an assistant under Al McGuire and Hank Raymonds before taking over as head coach for three seasons at his alma mater.
"In the [foundation] guidelines that Rick put together before his passing, he said he wanted to honor Marquette," Majerus' sister, Jodi, said. "He didn't say specifically what he wanted us to do, but that he wanted us to follow the values of our parents and use the four pillars that he established -- education, medical research, athletics and social justice -- as our guide. I wish I could ask him, 'Is this what you wanted?' But knowing my mom and dad and the importance they placed on education, and knowing Rick and how he looked at life in general, it feels like a natural thing to do."
Most people remember Majerus, who died in 2012, as an exceptional coach. He won 517 games in a career that stretched from his alma mater to Ball State to Utah -- he took the Utes to the 1998 national championship game -- and Saint Louis. But to the people who knew him well, this scholarship represents what Majerus was truly about.
He was proud to be the first in his family to attend college and truly valued both his Jesuit and liberal arts education. He was a voracious reader -- his sister said he typically read as many as four newspapers a day -- with a curious intellect, a person who would take the other side of an argument simply to start a dialogue.
"It's funny, sometimes you get around these coaching lifer guys and you think all they know, all they read, is basketball," said Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who played for Majerus and credits his former coach for his successes -- as well as his nickname. "You got around Rick and you'd find this extremely well read, intelligent and political guy. He was such a contradiction between what you saw and who he was. Clearly if we had done something related to sports, that's Rick, but this really tells the story of Rick."
Rivers, though, admitted that were Majerus alive, he would hate all of this -- not the scholarship itself, but the attention that his name's being associated with it would draw. He never searched for public approval, instead choosing to follow the words of Jewish philosopher Hillel, who once said, "If I am for myself alone, what good am I?"
In honor of that, the Majerus family has thrown down something of a challenge. It is calling on his former players, friends and associates to contribute to the scholarship and add to the initial $1 million gift in order to impact more students.
"This won't be a hard sell," Rivers said.
Established before Majerus' death, the Majerus Family Foundation two years ago donated $2 million to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City toward construction of a children's research center. It also annually hosts a dinner for the homeless in Milwaukee on the birthdays of Majerus, his late father and his late mother, Alyce.