LA CROSSE, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) - University of Wisconsin- La Crosse received the largest single gift in its 110-year history: $2.1 million.

Thursday morning UW- La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow announced the donation at a meeting with area business leaders.

The donation will have an immediate impact on the establishment of the Menard Family Midwest Initiative for Economic Engagement and Research that will allow UW- La Crosse students to have more hands-on opportunities in economics and community engagement. The initiative will also help to expand the school’s experimental economics lab.

According to an open letter from the Menard family, they want to empower students by providing learning opportunities through higher education.  

“We hope our support of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse will enhance the educational experiences of students, preparing them for future success and inspiring generational prosperity throughout communities across the Midwest to lead the way.”

Adam Hoffer, UW- La Crosse economics professor, launched an experimental economic lab in 2016 with a separate grant. Hoffer shared his idea of expansion with John Menard, founder of Menards home improvement stores, earlier this year.

The Menard family has had past contributions to a variety of university programs and initiatives, but this is the first initiative for Economic Engagement and Research.

The Menard gift will also support the Sports Economics Symposium speaker series, which launched in 2016, that aims to expand understanding of critical issues in the sports industry.  Scholarships and other learning opportunities will be supported as well.