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Quincy Lewis dribbles the basketball during a game back during his days at the U.

In the late 1990s, Quincy Lewis was a standout on the hardwood. Now he's stepping up with a gift to his alma mater.

Power of passion

Former basketball star Quincy Lewis leaves a legacy of opportunity

By Steve Anderson

From M, winter 2008

Achieving his dream of playing in the NBA came at a cost for former Gopher basketball star Quincy Lewis: his degree.

After leaving college early for the pros, Lewis was determined to finish his bachelor's degree in environmental studies. He returned to campus for five summers between basketball seasons. Expecting faculty in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) to be put off by his approach, he instead found supportive professors and staff "who reached out far beyond what they needed to" to help him succeed.

Now, he is passing on that support in the form of an endowed scholarship in CFANS, which will help attract more minorities to the college. "What makes me happy is giving back," says Lewis, who now plays pro basketball in Europe. "In some shape, form, or fashion, I want to help."

"When I started thinking about all the people an endowed scholarship can touch and the magnitude of the gift, it just started to make sense. It turned out to be a win for so many people."

Lewis' scholarship is only the start of his philanthropic vision. He's also working to set up an organization called the Power of Passion. The nonprofit will offer an environment for underprivileged kids to express whatever they're excited about, along with support for their pursuits.

"There comes a time when all kids have to make a decision about their future," says Lewis, who calls his own upbringing in Little Rock, Arkansas, "average middle-class." "My experience is that having something positive that you are passionate about can help you overcome challenging circumstances."

His own educational journey is a good model: "Sometimes, just having hope and the understanding that there is a way to achieve your goals is enough. The U helped me in that way and that's what I want to do for troubled kids."