Milwaukee mutual fund manager and former University of Wisconsin basketball Hall of Famer Albert Nicholas announced Thursday he is establishing a $50 million scholarship fund for high school basketball players to attend UW System schools.

Each year, the scholarships will be available for up to 250 male and female Wisconsin public high school graduates who played for the basketball team their senior season, according to a Nicholas Company, Inc. statement.

The statement said scholarships will consist of $10,000 annually for four-year programs and $5,000 a year for two-year programs. Each scholarship will be renewable for a student’s entire education.

Nicholas created the endowment to give Wisconsin student “hoopsters” the same possibilities he had going to a UW school, he said in the statement.

“Our goal is to make higher education accessible and affordable to worthy students, helping them open doors to a better world,” Nicholas said. “There’s no doubt my UW education made a difference for me, on and off the court. The foundation’s objective is to give Wisconsin student athletes that same kind of opportunity.”

Nicholas is the founder and chairman of the Nicholas Company, Inc., a Milwaukee-based investment advisory which has $2.7 billion in assets, the statement said.  Nicholas is better known for his basketball performance where he was twice name named to the All-Big Ten team and once named to Look Magazine’s All-American team.

According to Michael Knetter, president and chief executive officer of the UW Foundation, Nicholas’ experiences playing basketball helped promote Nicholas to set up the scholarship program for high school basketball players. 

“I think he got a lot out of the competition, the leadership and that sort of shaped a lot of his life, values and professional success,” Knetter said. “He just wanted to create that sort of opportunity for other young people and that’s what he’s doing through this scholarship program. It’s a great gift to the state of Wisconsin.”

Knetter added the UW System exists for the benefit of young people and this scholarship program will only add to that benefit.

This scholarship endowment is not the first donation the Nicholas family has given to the system. Knetter said the family provided a $10 million gift to fund the Kohl Center project. UW named the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion practice facility basketball complex after Nicholas and his wife, Nancy Johnson Nicholas.

The School of Human Ecology building is also now housed in Nancy Nicholas Hall. Knetter said the family’s gift made that building facility possible.

UW Vice Chancellor for University Relations Vince Sweeney said the scholarship endowment is another contribution in the long line of gifts the Nicholas family has given to UW and the community throughout Wisconsin.

“They truly value higher education and they’re trying to do everything they can to support it,” Sweeney said, who described Nicholas as a kind, gentle, loyal, generous and a brilliant business man. “They want others to have the opportunities they had at the UW-Madison.”

Starting Feb. 1, students will be able to apply for scholarships through the Ab Nicholas Scholarship Foundation until April 30.