ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan Athletic Department announced today that its football defensive coordinator position has been endowed through a generous gift by Matthew and Nicole Lester. The position, currently held by Don Brown, will be named for the family as the Matthew and Nicole Lester Family Football Defensive Coordinator.
"We are exceptionally grateful to Matthew and Nicole for this unique gift to the University of Michigan," said Warde Manuel, the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics. "The Lester family is part of a strong group of donors and alumni that are passionate about this university. Great relationships can lead to these outcomes, and it is our student-athletes who will continue to benefit for years to come. Gifts like this make it possible for us to attract and retain the best coaches and students who participate in athletics."
"This gift represents a long-standing commitment by the Lester family to the University of Michigan and football program, and we have so much appreciation for their generosity," said Jim Harbaugh, U-M's J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach. "This gesture will have a great impact on the coaches and student-athletes who represent our team. We are appreciative of the commitments made by Ira (Harris), Sandy (Robertson) and now the Lester family. Their support and dedication is much appreciated and means a lot. It has been great to spend time getting to know Matt and his son, Asa, and we look forward to their family remaining a part of our program for years to come."
Matthew Lester graduated from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts in history. In 1994, following a successful career as an attorney and litigator in private practice, he founded a private real estate investment company that owns and operates commercial real estate in the Midwest and Southeast. He lives with his wife Nicole, daughter Elliah and son Asa in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
"My family has been a supporter of Michigan football for over 50 years, beginning with my father, Dr. Melvin Lester, who is a graduate and a founding member of the Victors Club," said Matthew Lester. "As an alumnus of the University of Michigan, I believe it is essential to give back to the institution that has shaped me, my father, my three siblings, and my nieces and nephews.
"I was raised to believe that Michigan football matters -- not just the results on the field, but also the prestige and prominence it lends to the University of Michigan. More importantly, I believe Michigan football has the potential to teach life lessons to the student-athletes who play and to those of us who follow them. If this is true -- and I believe it is -- then it is the coaches who deserve our support because they are the ones who teach these young athletes both on and off the field."
Brown is entering his second year coaching at Michigan. He is widely regarded as one of the top defensive minds in the country; his units are known for their attacking style and stingy run defense, with a fierce commitment to a heavy blitz scheme.
In Brown's first year leading Michigan's defense, the unit ranked first or second in the NCAA in seven categories, including total defense, scoring defense, tackles for loss, first downs allowed and third-down conversion percentage allowed. A native of Spencer, Massachusetts, Brown has 35 years of coaching experience, including 22 as a defensive coordinator.
"In speaking with Matt, his passion for the defensive side of football is clear, and that enthusiasm excites me as a coach," said Brown. "I am proud to have my position as defensive coordinator named after the Lester family, and I look forward to furthering my relationship with Matt, Nicole and their family in the years to come."
"It has been famously said that 'Those who stay will be champions' -- I think it is also true that those who play football for the University of Michigan leave with a deep appreciation for the value of hard work, dedication, perseverance and teamwork," said Matthew Lester. "I am inspired by these values and I respect those who teach them to us -- in particular, the leadership of Coach Harbaugh and the determination of Coach Brown, two men who lead by example and set a high bar for their players as well as the rest of us who bleed maize and blue.
"I am honored to have my family associated with the Michigan football program through the Matthew and Nicole Lester Family Football Defensive Coordinator Fund. The endowment is one of many ways our family has and will continue to give to the University of Michigan and support our shared commitment to scholarship, medical research and athletics."
Michigan will begin the 2017 season on Sept. 2 against Florida in the AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Wolverines will open their home schedule the following week against Cincinnati. Both game times are yet to be determined.