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UNLV welcomes $14 million gift from nonprofit

Lincy Foundation money will establish institute for grants

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Sam Morris

From left, Punam Mathur, chairman of The Lincy Foundation Anthony Mandekic and UNLV President Neal Smatresk applaud Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., at the official announcement of a $14 million grant from Kirk Kerkorian’s Lincy Foundation to fund the creation of The Lincy Institute at UNLV Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009.

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009 | 3:36 p.m.

$14 Million for UNLV

Kirk Kerkorian through his Lincy Foundation has given UNLV a $14 million grant in honor of his longtime friend Senator Harry Reid. The grant will fund the creation of the Lincy Institute at UNLV, which will work to unite local non-profits.

Lincy Foundation gives UNLV $14 million gift

UNLV President Neal Smatresk speaks at the official announcement of a $14 million grant from Kirk Kerkorian's Lincy Foundation to fund the creation of The Lincy Institute at UNLV Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009. Launch slideshow »
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The foundation of Kirk Kerkorian, the billionaire businessman and philanthropist who is the largest shareholder of MGM Mirage, made the $14 million gift to UNLV in honor of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, his friend of 40 years.

The auditorium at UNLV’s Tam Alumni Center was standing-room only Wednesday morning with philanthropists, college administrators and deans, heads of nonprofit organizations and politicians.

“You’re seeing the who’s who of Las Vegas,” said Fred Cover, a member of the United Way executive board.

The biggest name not in the room, however, was the reason they all turned out. MGM Mirage Chairman Kirk Kerkorian through his Lincy Foundation was giving $14 million to establish a new institute at the university. The Sun reported the gift in its Wednesday edition.

Kerkorian’s absence was easy to understand, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

“He’s a shy man and he always has been. He stays out of the limelight,” Reid said.

The purpose of the new Lincy Institute is to break down the silos that local nonprofit groups operate in, to gather data from all of them and apply for federal grants that are currently not being tapped in Southern Nevada, said Lindy Schumacher, director of Nevada giving for the Lincy Foundation.

“If a group is feeding someone, well that person probably is not just hungry,” Schumacher said. “That person probably also needs health care or other services.”

The institute also will bring the research of the university deeper into the community, said UNLV President Neal Smatresk, who worked with Schumacher to develop the institute. It will report to the UNLV vice president for research and graduate studies; employ a full-time grant writer and program directors in health, education and social systems; and sponsor 12 faculty fellowships as well as post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate assistantships and scholarships.

“It will be a genuine two-way gateway between UNLV and the community,” Smatresk said. “It will transform UNLV in deep and profound ways.”

The institute will be housed in the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, and Las Vegas Sun Editor Brian Greenspun, for whose family the college is named, called the institute “a turning point for UNLV.”

“It will create the next stage of growth for UNLV, in its relevance in the country and in the community,” he said. “This will fund outreach programs into the community, and it will happen in a big way because of this gift.”

Punam Mather, vice president of human resources for NV Energy, told the group, “today feels like a rite of passage” for Las Vegas, a town that has been in its adolescence — “a bit too fearless, a bit too bold, a little gawky, a bit self-centered.”

With his gift, Kerkorian is providing leadership in the community during a difficult period, said Jim Murren, chief executive of MGM Mirage.

“Fundraising is down dramatically at UNLV, and every nonprofit has the same story,” he said. “He personifies the best in all of us: unconditional love of his community.”

Executives of some of the nonprofit groups the Lincy Foundation has helped over the years came to offer their support.

“We are so grateful for the generous support he has given to abused and neglected children over the years,” said Christine Spadafor, executive director of St. Jude’s Ranch for Children in Boulder City. “This foundation is so integrated into the community and makes such a difference in the community, I’m not surprised to see so many people here.”

The Lincy Foundation has backed Opportunity Village the 15 years he has headed it, Executive Director Ed Guthrie said. He hopes to see the institute develop future leadership for the community’s nonprofit groups.

“The financial resources are important, but also the ability to do training,” he said. “Many nonprofits will fail because they do not have the management resources.”

Jean Reid Norman can be reached at 948-2073 or [email protected].

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