Last October, an emotional Andre Agassi publicly thanked gaming pioneer Kirk Kerkorian for putting food on his family's table decades ago.
Saturday night, the tennis superstar again paid tribute to Kerkorian at the Grand Slam for Children benefit, this time for contributing to Agassi's second family of sorts.
Kerkorian gave $18 million to support the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy for at-risk students, a record donation Agassi said will "outlive all of us" as the funds guarantee the Las Vegas charter school's future in perpetuity.
"If it wasn't for Mr. Kerkorian's kindness to my family long before I ever hit a tennis ball, I wouldn't be here today. He hasn't just helped my family, but millions of people in the state of Nevada," Agassi said in a telephone interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal just hours before officially announcing the donation.
"For him to now give a gift that assures a future for Agassi Prep is a luxury I'm not sure I ever imagined."
The 16th annual benefit, held this year at Wynn Las Vegas, raised an estimated $26.1 million, including Kerkorian's donation, according to a spokesman.
Performing to a crowd of about 1,400 were Michael Bublé, Martina McBride, Smokey Robinson, Jimmy Kimmel and Train.
The star-studded benefit concert, which rakes in about $8 million annually, is the main fundraising vehicle for Agassi's foundation. The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education endowment benefits the charter school located in an at-risk neighborhood in the urban core of Las Vegas.
The Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, on Lake Mead Boulevard near Martin Luther King Boulevard, provides a tuition-free high standard of education through extended school days, small class sizes and advanced technology, according to its website. The K-12 school is home to 1,045 students, Agassi said, adding there's a lengthy waiting list.
"To have a school that has high expectations is to give them a future of their choosing," said Agassi, who at 41 is retired from tennis and lives in Las Vegas with his wife, former tennis champion Steffi Graf, and their two children.
The endowment pays for the school's mortgage, daily operations and the roughly $5,000 per pupil spending beyond annual state funding, Agassi said.
Agassi said he was at a Red Sox game with his family this summer when Kerkorian called him on his cellphone.
"That always takes my breath away because of what he's meant to me in my life," the eight-time Grand Slam singles champion said of the call. "He congratulated me for the Hall of Fame. Then he continued to express his appreciation for what I'm doing with the children."
Kerkorian, who is 94, then told Agassi who to call at the UCLA Dream Fund, explaining that together they would scrutinize what needed to be done to ensure the Agassi Foundation's long-lasting existence.
"He's been too good (to us) to ask for a dollar more than we need," Agassi said of the figure that was ultimately chosen.
He estimated that after Saturday night, the endowment would have roughly $120 million to $125 million.
Kerkorian, through Tracinda Corp., is the largest shareholder of MGM Resorts International. Kerkorian's former charity, the Lincy Foundation, donated more than $1 billion to various causes, including numerous local groups such as the Nevada Cancer Institute, Opportunity Village and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Nevada.
Earlier this year, the Lincy Foundation gave the rest of its assets, $200 million, to create the UCLA Dream Fund, which funds scholarships, research and philanthropic pursuits.
At last year's Grand Slam for Children benefit, Agassi revealed that Kerkorian also "put bread" on his family's table during tougher times when his father worked at the original MGM Hotel, including when the hotel burned down in 1980 and there was no work.
Agassi's middle name "Kirk" is a tribute to Kerkorian's longstanding support.
"How do you put it into words?" Agassi said, struggling to adequately sum up what Kerkorian's most recent gift means to him. "It's your life's work being guaranteed; its future. It changes these children's lives forever. It's a gift for this community that will keep going."
Contact reporter Jessica Fryman at email@example.com or 702-383-0264.