A historic $8 million philanthropic gift from the James J. Baumberger estate, which is the largest estate gift in UNLV Athletics history, will provide permanent and life-changing scholarship and strategic support for UNLV men’s and women’s basketball student-athletes.
“This gift is transformational in every regard,” said UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield. “The impact on our basketball programs and athletics department is monumental and what it will mean for student-athlete success is even more exciting. It is a tribute to the trajectory of UNLV Athletics and a testament to a true Rebel in Jim Baumberger who leaves us a life-changing legacy.”
A German immigrant who settled in Las Vegas in the 1960s, Baumberger adopted the Runnin’ Rebels as his hometown team, becoming a mainstay at the Thomas & Mack Center and witnessing championship basketball under legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian.
Runnin’ Rebel Basketball became family to Baumberger, and he surrounded himself with friends equally devoted to the success of the program. His love for basketball inspired a sincere appreciation for the student-athlete experience and Baumberger came to see a basketball scholarship as a gateway to a life-changing education.
“Mr. Baumberger was one of the most dedicated Rebel fans that we have ever had,” said Director of Athletics Desiree-Reed Francois, “and his commitment to education was truly inspiring. Jim believed that education transforms lives and this gift pays tribute to the belief that athletics can be a vehicle for life-long success as well as to bring people in a community closer to one another.”
Baumberger passed away in July 2016, but his passion for student-athlete academic growth continues under UNLV men’s basketball head coach T.J. Otzelberger. The Runnin’ Rebels set a team record for GPA this past fall, earning a collective 3.57.
“We concentrate on the complete development of student-athletes as lifelong leaders, with education the cornerstone of sustained success," said Otzelberger. "We will honor Mr. Baumberger and this wonderful gift through our student-athletes excelling on the court and in the classroom.”
“Jim loved the Runnin’ Rebels,” said longtime friend, confidant and Rebel Athletic Fund member Chip Johnson. “Yet he was equally passionate about the value of an education. An education to Jim represented the foundation of a meaningful, productive and rewarding life.”
Baumberger was devoted to the Lady Rebels as well, and the $8 million estate gift will extend equally to the women’s program under new head coach Lindy La Rocque.
“This phenomenal gift extols education as the fundamental pillar of the student-athlete experience,” said La Rocque. “Thanks to the Baumberger estate, education will enrich the lives of our student-athletes for years to come.”
The Baumberger Estate Commitment punctuates what has been a successful effort to endow the men’s basketball program. Launched in fall 2018, the Runnin’ Rebel Legacy Campaign set out to build a multi-million dollar endowment to permanently underwrite scholarship support. The Baumberger estate gift complements generous contributions from the Bill and Bonnie Paulos Family, the Dawn and Aldo Madrigrano Family, the Findlay Family, Penn and Sandi Elletson and Boyd Gaming.
“With this commitment, the Legacy Campaign has successfully established a pathway to championship performance,” Reed-Francois said. “And it pays tribute to all of the coaches, players, supporters and friends who have contributed to UNLV having a place among the elite in the history of college basketball.”
A ceremony prior to tip-off Feb. 8 against Air Force will reveal the Jim Baumberger name on Tarkanian Court at the Thomas & Mack Center, honoring him and forever associating Legacy Campaign donors with the lasting impact their life-changing support will have on Rebel student-athletes.