2018: The Year in Giving at UNLV

The university's supporters created some fabulous memories by giving gifts that allow the university to grow, help students to succeed, and set an example of community collaboration. Here are just a few highlights.

Eight Donors Hit the $1 Million Mark

Eight donors were welcomed into the Palladium Society, for philanthropists who have given $1 million or more to UNLV. The new honorees – which included a mix of individuals, corporations, and foundations – were celebrated at the UNLV Annual Dinner featuring speaker Caroline Kennedy at the Bellagio. Additionally, the total number of donors increased 10 percent over the previous year.

UNLV launched communitywide giving day campaign

The first annual Rebels Give campaign was a great success — raising more than $900,000 in 1,957 minutes (a nod to the year UNLV was founded: 1957). Rebel Ambassadors worked their social media connections; volunteers and staff manned giving booths all over campus; students had a blast at the midnight breakfast fundraiser; and a generous sum was donated online during the fast, fun campaign.



UNLV Athletics Giving Wins Big

In January, the community celebrated the groundbreaking of the Fertitta Football Complex, a state-of-the art training facility started by a $10 million gift from the Fertitta family. Giving continued all year, and by autumn, support for Rebels sports attracted a $5 million gift from Boyd Gaming Corp. As the largest corporate commitment in the history of UNLV Athletics, the Boyd gift will support a suite of programs, including the establishment of the Student-Athlete Excellence Center. Go Rebels! 

Debbie Reynolds’ Son Establishes Scholarship

Performing artists have a new opportunity to pursue their craft at UNLV’s College of Fine Arts. Todd Fisher pledged $1 million last spring to establish the Debbie Reynolds Performing Arts Scholarship at UNLV to honor his mother.

Reynolds, who owned a hotel and casino in Las Vegas in the 1990s, starred in numerous films, musicals, and television shows. She won the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 2014 and the Academy Awards’ Jean Hershold Humanitarian Award in 2015. She also was the mother of actress Carrie Fisher.

Todd Fisher, an actor, director, producer, cinematographer, business executive and curator, established the UNLV scholarship to help students who are overcoming challenges to pursue their performing arts career. College of Fine Arts Dean Nancy Uscher says, "I am thrilled to receive this generous gift on behalf of the college. Our future students will benefit greatly from this exceptional award."

Reynolds passed away on Dec. 28, 2016, at age 84, one day after her daughter, Carrie, died at age 60.

Engelstad Scholars Log 32,000 Hours of Community Service

Giving back is at the heart of the Engelstad Scholars Program. Established by the Engelstad Foundation in 2009 through a gift to UNLV of $12.6 million, the program helps students in need — and asks that they help others. In 2018, the students reached 32,000-hours of service.

Scholars are required to contribute 100 hours a year to local nonprofit agencies. Since the program’s inception, scholars have logged more than 32,000 hours of community service.

MGM Funds Latinx History Project

MGM Resorts International announced in 2018 that it will provide $25,000 to support the UNLV University Libraries’ Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada project. Through the oral history project, UNLV students are connecting with community members and interviewing individuals to collect their life stories for an unprecedented historical record. Today, approximately 29 percent of Southern Nevada’s residents and more than 25 percent of UNLV’s student body are Latinx.

UNLV Students Contribute to Each Others' Success 

In 2018, the Bennett Honors Mentor Program reached a milestone: 1,100 first-year students now have received mentoring from an upper-level honors student since the program was started in fall of 2015.

The program is funded by the Bennett Family Foundation, which gives scholarships to outstanding upperclassmen, who, in turn, commit to mentoring small groups of first-year students. The Bennett Honors Mentors play an integral role in the Honors College’s student-support system by helping freshmen feel connected and informed. This structured mentor program promotes first-year student success while also instilling in upperclassmen the principles of leadership, citizenship, and the value of giving back.

Students selected for the scholarship receive a $5,000 one-year award for their service.

Students who participate in the Bennett Honors Mentorship Program are the best and brightest, like Sabrina Mae Antonio, and give back by helping other students.

New Nursing Scholarships Build Health Care Access

The Edward and Shauna Smith Nursing Scholarships made a difference in many lives. One of those was student Chee Lim, who was inspired to go into nursing school after becoming a parent.

“When I saw how the nurses cared for my wife, it opened my eyes to nursing as a profession,” Lim says. “They also made sure that, as a new dad, I was ready to take care of my son.”

The Edward and Shauna Smith Nursing Scholarship made it possible for him to return to school. Lim, who received a bachelor’s in biology from UNLV in 2014, re-enrolled in the School of Nursing when his firstborn was an infant. Now the father of two sons — a 3-year-old and 9-month-old baby — Lim graduated with a B.S. in nursing this month.

Edward and Shauna Smith are improving healthcare outcomes in Nevada by funding 72 scholarships in UNLV’s School of Nursing.




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