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Friend donates in memory of Don Page, UWRF alumnus

September 20, 2012

Chancellor Dean Van Galen announced that $750,000 was donated towards the naming and construction of the Don Page Arena. The arena will be a part of the new Falcon Center which will begin construction in 2014.

Ab Nicholas, CEO and chairman of Nicholas Company, Inc., made the donation in honor of his life-long friend, Don Page. In 1950, the two met while on the same basketball team at UW-Madison. Through the years, they remained in contact and stayed close friends until Page died on Sept. 14, 2010 at the River Falls Area Hospital at the age of 83.

“It was simply because of his lifelong friendship to Don Page that led to this donation,” said Chris Mueller, executive director of advancement. “Ab has been a large contributor to UW-Madison where he attended as well.”

The Falcon Center is currently in the design phase and is expected to begin construction in 2014 and should be completed by 2017. The exact location of the center is still in the works, but Mueller has explained that it will be connected to the Hunt Arena and Knowles Center. Some of the construction funds will also go into updating and enhancing the Hunt Arena and Knowles Center.

A brochure was presented to Nicholas in the original meeting about a potential donation. According to the brochure, the Falcon Center will be a health and human performance building, which will also have the Don Page Arena and a workout facility attached. The anticipated use for the arena will include: men and women’s Falcon basketball, volleyball, intramurals, UWRF commencements, concerts, lectures and other special events. The Falcon Center will be able to seat about 2,600 people.

“It’s the largest construction project in the history of the county,” said Mueller. “In order for us to receive the $63 million, the state has required us to raise $2 million of it. It’s part of the deal.”

In order to raise money, the school named the arena after Don Page. According to Mueller, the University has raised $1.2 million towards the project and has about $800,000 left. He is confident that the rest of the money will be raised and the project is not in jeopardy.

Page had a long history with sports at UWRF. It began when he was hired as the head basketball and baseball coach in 1957. He guided the baseball team to the WIAC championships in 1964 and 1965 and was an assistant football coach for the Falcons for 15 years. He also coached the men’s tennis team from 1973 until 1987 with a two-year break between 1980 and 1982.

From 1970 until his retirement in 1992, Page was UWRF’s athletic director who, upon retiring, became a lone inductee into the UWRF Athletic Hall of Fame. In 2004, Page was also inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame and in 2012 he took part in the inaugural Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame class.

According to Mueller, Page’s son, David, has played a major role in the donations made for this facility. Dr. David Page is a local River Falls dentist who remains in close connection with the University.

“Chris called me for a meeting,” said Dr. Page. “As an alumnus and a son, they were wondering if I would be willing to help.”

Dr. Page explained that though he had never talked to Nicholas before, but knowing the kind of relationship Nicholas had with his father and his generous donations to UW-Madison, it was worth telling him about the idea. He called the office for Nicholas’ company and before he knew it, he was talking to the secretary who deals with these kinds of donations.

“A month later Ab called me right before he left for a trip,” Dr. Page said. “He said, ‘don’t worry about this David, we’ll get this named after your dad.’”

Soon after that phone call, he helped set up a meeting with the school to include Nicholas. From there, everything seemed to fall right into place.

“I’ve connected with all sorts of people who I think have kept in touch with their friends and expand a network of contacts,” said Dr. Page. He expressed how humbled he is by the donations and that this arena will be named in honor of his father is incredible.

“He is just the most incredibly gracious and kind man I will ever meet,” said Dr. Page of Nicholas. “I know they are going to have a section dedicated to the donors. So I hope he will be there for the ground breaking and I hope he will be there for the opening.”

Dr. Page, Mueller and a team of alumni, faculty and associates of Page are rallying together to raise the remaining money. Mueller explained that there is a lot of energy around this project and this facility will be a great addition to campus once completed.

In a letter Dr. Page sent to Nicholas he said, “After all the accolades, and all the Halls of Fame, there can be no greater honor paid to Dad than the enshrinement of his legacy in the naming of the basketball arena at UW-River Falls after him. Unless, perhaps, that it was made possible by his friend.”