After 48 years of students, faculty, and community members using the facility, the St. Thomas More High School gymnasium is receiving a facelift, thanks to a $315,000 grant from the Majerus Family Foundation.
John Hoch, St. Thomas More’s athletic director, approached the foundation with a grant proposal about a year ago.
“Our floor is coming toward the end of its useful cycle,” Hoch explained.
St. Thomas More is still using the original gym floor — the one installed when the school was founded in 1968. Given its age and usage, the entire gym was in need of repair.
Along with the floor, the gym will receive new scoreboards, an air conditioning system, a coat of paint and new drinking fountains.
The air conditioning system is especially welcome as, on occasion, the school has had to cancel a varsity volleyball game due to condensation on the floor.
“It’s going to be much better for our student athletics,” Hoch said. “It’ll be a much more modern facility. It’s something our kids will be proud to play on.”
The foundation was established by Rick Majerus, a Marquette University High School and Marquette University alumnus who coached Marquette University basketball from 1971 to 1986, first as an assistant and then, from 1983 to 1986, as head coach.
He was an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks, 1986-1987, before returning to the college ranks, where he was head coach at Ball State University, University of Utah and St. Louis University. Majerus died in 2012, at age 64, from heart conditions.
“To most people though, Rick Majerus was more than just a wildly successful coach and mentor,” the Majerus Family Foundation website states. “Rick was a great son, brother and uncle whose life was defined by the company he kept rather than accolades he earned on the court.”
The foundation contributes to a variety of needs predominantly in the Milwaukee community.
“Rick Majerus was very committed to the development of students physically, spiritually, academically,” said Mary McIntosh, St. Thomas More president. “(The new gym) would inspire our students to continue with Rick’s legacy.”
Athletics, education, medical research and social justice are the core principles the Majerus Family Foundation works to aid, sustain and improve through its donations. Its mission is to provide affordability and accessibility to one or more of those areas.
On its website, the foundation writes that the donation to St. Thomas More assists in “providing a space for all students and athletes to continue to reach their athletic and personal wellness goals.”
“The new gym is giving us the visible assurance that there is progress going on here,” said Mark Joerres, St. Thomas More principal.
McIntosh said the school has been discussing facility improvements with faculty, students, alumni, parents and community stakeholders.
“We’ve been engaged in comprehensive planning for the future of the school,” she said.
The gym renovation is the first step to creating a more positive image to the school. Of the thousands of visitors who come to the campus every year, a majority visit the gymnasium for sporting and social events.
For McIntosh, the renovated facility is another way that St. Thomas More “molds future Milwaukee leaders.”
Part of the school’s mission statement is to “nurture the whole person: spiritual, ethical, intellectual, emotional and physical.”
“Athletics, along with rigorous academics and spiritual development, will help our students develop leadership skills,” she said.
McIntosh praised Hoch for making the gym renovation a reality.
“He gets all the credit,” McIntosh said.
Hoch expressed gratitude to the Majerus Family Foundation for its assistance in the renovation.
“The Majerus Family Foundation believes in the school,” Hoch said.
In honor of Rick Majerus and his foundation, St. Thomas More’s gym floor will be renamed Coach Majerus Court.
Work on the floor will begin April 11, while the air conditioning will be installed during the school’s spring break.
The project is scheduled to be completed in time for the school’s May 28 graduation ceremony, which will be held in the gym.
“All the contests, all of the experiences on that floor over almost 50 years — it’s a sign of vitality that we are alive and well and making progress.” Joerres said.