The University of Nevada, Las Vegas announced during its annual Foundation Dinner a $12.9 million gift from the estate of the late philanthropist Kitty Rodman. Per Rodman's request, funds will be directed to the College of Education to support scholarships and graduate fellowships for UNLV students studying special education. UNLV expects the funds to generate more than $400,000 per year for awards.
The gift is the largest ever to the College of Education, and it is also the top scholarship and realized estate gift the university has ever received.
Rodman was a founding member of the UNLV Jean Nidetch Women's Center and a 25-year member of the UNLV Foundation Board of Trustees. She was a staple at UNLV academic and community events, supported scholarships, helped establish the physical therapy program at UNLV, and funded the construction of campus residence halls - one of which is named in her honor. She died this past February.
"Rodman was a stalwart supporter of numerous UNLV programs and initiatives. Her legacy of giving to UNLV was widespread but strongly focused on students," said UNLV President Donald Snyder. "Her commitment to UNLV was only matched by her support for Opportunity Village and adults with intellectual disabilities, and her estate gift to UNLV for special education fills a large university and community need, but also continues her support for citizens with special needs."
Thomas Pierce, professor and chair of the education and clinical studies department, said locally and nationwide there are critical shortages of teachers in all areas and disciplines, particularly in special education. The endowment, which is the largest single source of funds at UNLV for doctoral fellowships, will help UNLV recruit students from Nevada and out of state to the academic field.
"Special education is one of UNLV's longest running programs," said Kim Metcalf, dean of the UNLV College of Education. "It is a great honor to our institution that Kitty Rodman would recognize the College of Education's commitment to producing teachers who are dedicated to helping children with special needs. Additionally, this financial support will assist graduate and doctoral students in conducting research that is vital to improving classroom instruction."
Rodman was among the first and most influential women in the construction industry in Las Vegas as a partner in Sierra Construction Corporation, which built projects for the Atomic Energy Commission, Nellis Air Force Base, Clark County School District, UNLV, and numerous hotels and casinos.
She was named a Distinguished Nevadan in 1991 for her support of residential life at UNLV. In 1995, UNLV conferred upon Rodman an honorary doctorate degree for her distinguished service to the university. In 1998, she received the President's Medal in recognition of her longstanding commitment to UNLV and higher education. Rodman received the 2005 Silver State Award, the highest honor given to non-alumni by the UNLV Alumni Association. In 2007 she was inducted into the Nevada Business Hall of Fame.
The UNLV Foundation raised close to $44 million in support of scholarships over the last five years. Prior to Rodman's estate gift, the largest donation to support scholarships at UNLV was $12.6 million from the Engelstad Foundation in 2009 to create the thriving Engelstad Scholars program.