Denis and Britta Nayden, alumni and longstanding donors to the University of Connecticut, have donated $3 million towards the new UConn Basketball Champions Center and for scholarships for student-athletes. A key feature of the gift is a challenge match to all former UConn Husky basketball players who contribute to the new center.
The Nayden gift has three parts – $1 million for the new UConn Basketball Champions Center currently under construction on the Storrs campus; $1 million in scholarships for student-athletes and trainers enrolled in the School of Business or the physical therapy or kinesiology programs of the Neag School of Education; and a challenge match of up to $1 million for gifts from former UConn Husky basketball players. UConn has 58 Huskies – 34 men and 24 women – who went on to play in the NBA or the WNBA, among the highest of any program nationally.
“We are proud UConn grads and this is our way to share and give back, which we both believe in,” says Denis Nayden ’76 (CLAS), ’77 MBA. “Our donation to the basketball center is an investment in a great program. Our challenge grant is meant to encourage participation by former players who fully understand the spirit of competition, and our scholarship gift is designed to support student-athletes who share our interest in business, physical therapy, or kinesiology. It’s support for a great program and for giving young people a shot at a great education, wrapped up in a big UConn bow.”
The Naydens graduated from UConn in 1976, Denis with a BA from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Britta with a BS from the School of Allied Health, now part of the Neag School of Education. Denis received his MBA from the School of Business in 1977 and went on to a successful career with GE and Oak Hill Capital Management, where he currently serves as managing partner. He has been serving on UConn’s Board of Trustees since 2001.
“We are incredibly grateful to alumni and friends like Denis and Britta Nayden for their support,” says UConn President Susan Herbst. “With their help, we are providing a great new home for basketball and student-athletes. It helps celebrate the excitement our student-athletes bring to the University, and ensures they have the support they need to be successful on the court and in the classroom.”
The new 78,000-square-foot UConn Basketball Champions Center is under construction and scheduled to be completed this spring. It will feature practice gyms for the men’s and women’s basketball programs, along with locker rooms, coaches’ offices, and areas for academic support, video analysis, sports medicine, and strength training.
“Success doesn’t happen by accident, and, with this gift, the Naydens are helping us ensure UConn will continue to enjoy athletic and academic excellence for years to come,” say Warde Manuel, director of Athletics. “Talent, dedication, and investment are needed for this type of achievement – not only from student-athletes and coaches but also from passionate and caring donors like Denis and Britta.”
Coach Geno Auriemma says, “Friends and donors like the Naydens understand what it takes to be successful. Their gift to the basketball facility helps us provide a setting for student-athletes’ practice, training, and studying that promotes excellence.”
The $35 million construction costs of the facility are being funded entirely through private donations. With the Naydens’ gift, pledges and donations for the project total $27 million.
“Our basketball family, which includes wonderful people like Denis and Britta Nayden, are a large part of our success,” says Coach Kevin Ollie. “The new facility will help provide our student-athletes with the support they need to be successful academically and athletically, and keep our programs among the national elite.”
The Naydens and their gift in support of UConn basketball were celebrated at the UConn women’s game Dec. 5 and the UConn men’s game on Dec. 6, both at the XL Center.