Honoring Pearl Washington
Support Student-Athletes’ Academic Dreams
When the men’s basketball team hosts Georgetown in the Carrier Dome on Saturday, Dec. 17, fans will celebrate more than a long-time rivalry with the Hoyas. The event will include a tribute to Syracuse legend Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, and the whole University community can take part in honoring his memory.
“There was no better guy, and there’s nobody who has meant more to our basketball program than Dwayne Washington,” says head coach Jim Boeheim.
One of college basketball’s all-time great performers, Washington passed away last spring after losing his battle with brain cancer. Now Syracuse University Athletics is establishing the Pearl Washington Endowed Fund for Continuing Education. With a goal of $1 million, the fund is being created to support student-athletes who left the University and are returning to pursue their degrees.
In honor of “number 31,” a 31-day campaign gives Syracuse alumni, friends and fans an opportunity to rally and support Washington’s legacy. Those who visit the Honoring Pearl Washington website and make a gift of $31 or more by Dec. 17 will receive a commemorative window cling (pictured at left). Results of the effort will be announced during Washington’s tribute ceremony at the Georgetown game.
The inspiration for this fund comes from Washington’s own experience, when he left Syracuse after his junior year to play in the NBA and came back later to continue his education, thanks to financial support from the provost and director of athletics.
“Pearl will always be remembered for his athletic prowess, but he touched our hearts in many other ways,” says John Wildhack, director of athletics. “This fund is so important, because it rewards the tenacity of individuals like Pearl who utilize their physical talents, but never lose sight of their educational dreams. We can’t think of a more fitting way to honor him and hope alumni and friends everywhere will join us in supporting this campaign.”
About Pearl Washington
Pearl Washington has been deservedly credited with helping the BIG EAST Conference emerge as the most dynamic league in college basketball during the 1980s. A master showman on the court, Washington helped attendance numbers soar and television ratings skyrocket while he played at Syracuse. He earned All-American recognition and was a first-team All-BIG EAST Conference selection in each of his three seasons. Washington was the league’s freshman of the year in 1983-84 and the BIG EAST Conference Tournament MVP in 1985-86, his final season.
After foregoing his final collegiate year of eligibility to enter the NBA Draft, Washington was the 13th overall selection by the New Jersey Nets. He averaged 8.6 points and 4.1 assists in his rookie season and 9.3 points the next year. He was taken by Miami in the 1988 Expansion Draft and spent one season with the Heat before he was released. Washington played two years in the Continental Basketball Association before retiring.
On March 2, 1996, Washington’s jersey was retired in a ceremony at the Carrier Dome. When the school’s All-Century Team was selected by fan vote in 1999-2000, Washington was among 25 players picked.
He later returned to Syracuse to complete his class requirements and received a bachelor’s degree in speech communication. He was working toward his master’s degree in the instructional design, development and evaluation program in the School of Education when he fell ill.