EAU CLAIRE — John Menard, founder of the Menards home-improvement chain of stores and a 1963 UW-Eau Claire graduate, is giving $3 million to the university for a five-year initiative regarding the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment rights.

The funds “will expand the opportunities available through UW-Eau Claire’s Center for Constitutional Studies, now renamed the Menard Center for Constitutional Studies,” according to a UW-EC news release.

“The center is a nonpartisan organization created in 2016 that aims to educate the campus community on issues that relate to the U.S. Constitution.”

The center hosts presentations and events covering constitutional issues and serves as the point of contact for the media or the public with questions related to the Constitution. The UW-Eau Claire Foundation will receive and manage the gift.

“This new support provides an incredible opportunity for our students and faculty to lead and engage in critical research and programming around First Amendment issues, topics that are crucial to every American,” UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt said in the release. “As I have said many times ... we all benefit from a fuller understanding of what the U.S. Constitution requires and protects when it comes to free speech and tolerance, and universities clearly have an important role to play in furthering this understanding.

“We are very grateful to the Menard family for supporting us as we work to be a leader in promoting research, education and community outreach in these important matters.”

A portion of the donation will bring Cornel West, professor at Harvard University and professor emeritus at Princeton University, and American attorney and George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley to campus in next year for discussions about free speech and the U.S. Constitution.

“Our family has deep roots at UW-Eau Claire and we are excited to support the important work and research happening on campus related to the U.S. Constitution,” said the Menard family in a statement. “Investing in the future of the communities where our employees, customers and business partners live, learn and work is a core value. Our hope is to empower as many people as possible to have the opportunity our family did to use their innate abilities to learn, contribute and succeed.”

With the donation from the Menard family and $747,000 in new funding from the Charles Koch Foundation, UW-Eau Claire will hire two new faculty members; offer new courses; create new speaker forums and series that provide multiple points of view; offer research symposiums; support faculty; and make possible new educational programming.