The Green Bay Packers and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay announced today that the Packers are honoring the late Packers great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Davis with a $250,000 impact grant toward the establishment of the Willie Davis Financial Trading and Investment Laboratory within the University's rapidly growing Cofrin School of Business.
The donation will enhance the University's efforts to support the region's robust financial services sector with a focus on financial literacy.
Davis passed away in April 2020 following a brief illness. During his 10 seasons with the Lombardi-era Packers, Davis was considered an anchor on the Packers' defensive line, playing 138 consecutive regular-season games. Davis was a member of all five of Vince Lombardi's NFL title-winning teams and played in Super Bowls I and II.
"This is a wonderful tribute to Willie. He was a Hall of Fame player who became a great businessman and entrepreneur," said Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy. "Willie will always be tied to one of the greatest football dynasties, the Vince Lombardi era. Willie learned valuable, lifelong lessons from Coach Lombardi, and applied these lessons to all aspects of his life. Willie would be very proud to know that his legacy will promote financial literacy and help good students become great."
Davis was known beyond football for his belief in the power of education and his business and financial acumen. In 1968 and while still a Packers player, Davis completed his master's in Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He parlayed that knowledge in his post-football career to become a successful entrepreneur and a coveted and trusted business mentor and advisor to many. In 1989, he was a finalist for consideration as the NFL Commissioner.
According to Cofrin School of Business Dean Matt Dornbush, the Willie Davis Financial Trading and Investment Laboratory will provide students with financial and research data feeds, analytics and simulation platforms for financial trading portfolio management, stock tracking, trading and more.
"This is more than a computer lab, it's a sophisticated environment where students not only learn about, but actively engage in, conventional and socially responsible investment strategies," Dornbush said. "Students will experience the world of investment in real time, with real money, and real accountability. We will leverage the lab, the talent of the Cofrin School of Business, and community partnership to strengthen financial literacy within Northeast Wisconsin. Ultimately, we will be accelerating professional development, social responsibility, and forging skills that will benefit learners for a lifetime."
"Our father's career as a professional athlete was made legendary during his time with the Green Bay Packers, but few people are as aware of his later accomplishments in the world of Business," said Lori Davis, Willie's daughter, on behalf of herself and her brother, Duane. "He valued education, and he attributed his post-NFL success as much to his strong educational foundation as to the character honing years in Green Bay under Coach Lombardi. He believed strongly in the power of having a seat at the table where the decisions are made to best serve the community. We are so excited to have the Packers organization and the UW-Green Bay Cofrin School of Business come together to honor his legacy in a way that reflects so many of his core beliefs in the value of higher education, financial intelligence and service to the community."
Up until his passing, Davis shared his financial knowledge as an active and engaged board member for an array of companies and was the first African American board member for many of the Fortune 500 companies on which he served. His board leadership included Alliance Bank, Dow Chemical (1988–2006), Johnson Controls (1991–2006), K-Mart, L.A. Gear, Manpower (2001–2020), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1999–2020), MGM Mirage, Rally's Inc., Sara Lee (1983–2020), Schlitz Brewing, and WICOR Inc. Davis was a member of the Packers' board of directors from 1994 to 2005, and an emeritus member until his passing. He was the second African American member of the board.
"Willie Davis understood well that financial literacy is a great equalizer, and so do the Green Bay Packers," said UW-Green Bay Chancellor Michael Alexander. "We are grateful for their impact grant to this new initiative, which will be a game-changer for our students, the Cofrin School of Business, and the region we serve."
The impact grant is a component of Green Bay Packers Give Back, the Packers' all-encompassing community outreach initiative, which include the Green Bay Packers Foundation's annual and impact grants, appearances by players, alumni, coaches and staff, cash and in-kind donations, community events, Make-A-Wish visits, football outreach and much more. Since the Foundation was established in 1986, it has distributed more than $12.68 million for charitable purposes.