$1.5 million gifted to Marquette University for its wellness and recreation center project

Rendering of the 180,000-square-foot wellness and recreational facility planned at Marquette University.

Last updated on February 24th, 2023 at 06:44 pm

Marquette University alum John Pfefferle and his wife, Lynn, are giving $1.5 million to support the development of a new wellness and recreation center on the southwestern edge of the campus near downtown Milwaukee.

The gift was made in memory of their son, Michael Pfefferle, a class of ’94 alum who died from cancer in 2021 at the age of 50.

“Mike deeply loved Marquette, and he spent countless hours sharing his passion for sports with his kids, coaching or supporting them in all of their athletic events,” John and Lynn Pfefferle said in a statement.

Slated to open in January 2025, the new 180,000-square-foot wellness and recreational facility will feature renovated portions of the existing Helfaer Tennis Stadium and Recreation Center (located at 525 N. 16th St.), including updated facades, and a newly constructed three-story wellness tower in the center of the facility. Interior building systems will also be replaced.

The $80 million project aims to centralize student fitness, recreation, counseling and medical services in one location. Recreation and fitness features will include updated basketball, tennis and multipurpose courts, fitness and spin studios, and a 25-yard pool.

In recognition of the Pfefferles’ gift, one of the intramural basketball courts at the facility will be named in Michael’s memory, and the men’s and women’s intramural championship basketball tournament will now be know as the Michael Pfefferle Classic. This year, the Michael Pfefferle Classic will have 52 intramural basketball teams competing across four divisions, according to John Sweeney, director of recreational sports at Marquette.

Michael Pfefferle’s son, Charlie, is currently in his first year at Marquette. His niece, Emma Oelhafen, is a junior, and his nephew, Edward Oelhafen, will attend Marquette next year.

“We are thrilled that so many of our family members continue to benefit from the Marquette ideals,” the Pfefferles said.

John Pfefferle, a class of ’66 alum, is chief executive officer of Appleton-based commercial real estate firm NAI Pfefferle. He and Lynn founded the company in 1971, and it has since grown to more than 120 employees and 22 licensed real estate brokers, with offices in Appleton, Green Bay, Wausau and Sheboygan. Its client base includes small businesses, municipalities, investors and multi-national corporations, according to its website. 

In 2005, the couple established the John and Lynn Pfefferle Charitable Fund through the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.

“This tremendous gift by the Pfefferle family connects closely to our mission and our aspiration to continually care for our students in every aspect of their lives,” said Michael Lovell, university president. “We are proud to honor Michael in this unique way that will inspire students far into the future.”

Marquette expects more than 200,000 annual visits to its new wellness and recreation facility, which will increase the recreation space of the current Helfaer Rec Center by 25% and nearly double the wellness and medical space offered on campus today.

To date, Marquette alumni, parents and friends have now contributed $22 million to the ongoing “Time to Rise” capital project, said Tim McMahon, vice president of university advancement.

“John and Lynn’s generous gift combines their love and passion for their son with the promise of our future. We are incredibly thankful to the Pfefferle family for their philanthropic leadership at a momentous time in Marquette’s history,” he said.

Michael Pfefferle with his children. Image courtesy of Marquette University

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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