Caroline Kennedy Highlights UNLV Foundation Annual Dinner


UNLV leadership welcomed more than 900 guests to the UNLV Foundation Annual Dinner at the Bellagio Oct. 8. Guests — some of UNLV’s most prominent supporters — came to celebrate philanthropy with speaker Caroline Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador, attorney, and best-selling author.

Here are five takeaway moments from the sold-out event.

1. A Place of Opportunity

UNLV President Marta Meana inspired with a speech about why she chose to work at UNLV more than 21 years ago — and why she is still passionate about it today.

“I chose UNLV precisely because it was not like those established institutions. It was vibrant and generous of spirit and ripe for a million opportunities to grow and develop in groundbreaking ways,” she said to applause.

“What I fell in love with then, and what I still feel fervently about today, is that UNLV continues to burst with opportunity! It is nontraditional. It is unpretentious. It is future-oriented … terms that that also describe the city of Las Vegas — and of course, that is no coincidence.”

2. Growing Together

Meana and UNLV Foundation Board of Trustees Chair Greg McKinley honored eight new members of the Palladium Society, which recognizes philanthropists who have given a cumulative $1 million or more to UNLV.

“So many of you have poured your energy, your creativity, and yes, your financial resources into creating UNLV,” Meana told the ballroom full of philanthropists. “You did it with the same spirit and audacity that built the city of Las Vegas, the most enterprising city anywhere. And we are so grateful.”

McKinley, ’80 BS Accounting, added, “I am very proud to be part of the Las Vegas community — a community where visionaries, like many of you in this room, have made the impossible, possible. Thank you for sharing in the promise, and great potential, of UNLV. Together we have the opportunity to ensure that this university has a bright future for generations to come.”

The honorees were: Barrick, Dunn Family Foundation, Mark and Gloria Fine, Huntsman Foundation, Mel and Marilyn Larson, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, Stuart and Flora Mason, and Edward D. Smith.

3. Impacting Students

The new Palladium Society members were celebrated on stage and in a video tribute featuring the students and programs directly benefitting from their support.

4. Uniting Through Education

Featured speaker Caroline Kennedy delivered a heartfelt speech about the significance of education in her life.

“My family shared a sense of intellectual curiosity and a love reading and of history,” Kennedy said. She described how her uncle Ted Kennedy (former U.S. Senator) would take her and her cousins on trips as kids to teach them American history. “Everything was about education; we were learning all the time, and it became part of our lives.”

She told the crowd that as an adult, she devoted herself to education after the Sept. 11 attack in the United States. That day solidified her belief that education is the single most important factor in shaping a culture and the world for the better. She became the vice chair of the Fund of Public Schools in New York, where she led efforts to engage the private sector in public education and raised more than $300 million in private funding for public education. After that, she served as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan from 2013 to 2017.

Kennedy, the daughter of U.S. President John F. Kennedy Jr. and First Lady Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy, also has authored, co-authored, and edited eight books.

“To the extent that we are all educated and informed, we will be more equipped to deal with the issues that tend to divide us,” Kennedy said.

5. Cultivating the Next Generation of Supporters

Student speaker Fadi Azar, a biological sciences major, delivered an inspiring speech thanking donors for supporting UNLV.

He told that crowd that his decision to stay in his hometown for college was “the single best decision of (his) life” because of the myriad experiences he is having both academically and socially.

“I’ve had the opportunity to do research that will affect those who have schizophrenia. I’ve had opportunities to volunteer in the community and engage people from different backgrounds through the Engelstad Scholars program. I’ve helped other students as a Bennett Honors Mentor,” he said.

“When I finish school, I want to follow in your footsteps and support future UNLV students. I want to give them the incredible opportunities you’ve given me.”

About the New Palladium Society Members


Barrick is the world’s leading gold producer. Since 1989, Barrick has supported UNLV Athletics and the colleges of Science, Business, and Engineering. Its largest gift supported a senior fellow in climate adaptation and environmental change at Brookings Mountain West.

The Dunn Family Foundation

The foundation, founded by school teachers Lloyd and Leota M. Dunn, established the Dunn Family Chair in Educational Assessment in the UNLV College of Education in 2017. The chair will support the development of educational assessment tools and research.

Edward D. Smith

Edward D. Smith donated the Maurine Jackson Smith Pipe Organ to UNLV in memory of his late wife, Maurine. In 2014, he and his wife Shauna created the Edward & Shauna Smith Nursing Scholarship in tribute to her nursing career. It now funds 72 scholarships.

The Huntsman Foundation

Founded by Jon and Karen Huntsman, the foundation established the Harry Reid Endowed Chair in the History of the Intermountain West. The chair honors the legacy of former Sen. Harry Reid, reflecting his love of history and service to the region.

Marilyn & Mel Larson

Marilyn Larson established the Mel Larson Endowed Chair in Marketing at Lee Business School to honor her late husband. The gift will encourage innovation in marketing education and promote Lee Business School as a leader in marketing research.

Gloria & Mark Fine

Gloria and Mark Fine, with Mayor Carolyn and Oscar Goodman, established a scholarship in the UNLV School of Medicine. Mark Fine has been a UNLV Foundation trustee since 1985. In 2017, he gifted property in the medical school district that is now in use as an outpatient clinic.

J. Willard & Alice S. Marriott Foundation

Since 1997, the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation has been creating hospitality leaders through its support of the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality.  The foundation is a founding donor of Hospitality Hall and namesake of its state-of-the-art Marriott Executive Kitchen.

Flora & Stuart Mason

In 2006, UNLV alumna and former English faculty member Flora Mason and her late husband, Stuart, established the Mason Undergraduate Peer Research Coach program at University Libraries. The program builds academic and life skills for at-risk students.


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