Barbara Greenspun, publisher of the Las Vegas Sun and wife to the late Hank Greenspun, died Tuesday. She was 88.
After her husband died in 1989, Greenspun assumed the role of publisher and, as the matriarch of the Greenspuns, was the face of the family to the many charitable organizations endowed by the clan.
Her support, contributions and class are what most people remember.
"Barbara Greenspun elevated conversation, cutting through the petty and underlining the timeless," said Sherman Frederick, president of Stephens Media and publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "She was an elegant woman, inside and out, and her presence in Las Vegas will be greatly missed. Our condolences go out to the Greenspun family."
Her oldest son, Brian Greenspun, told the Sun on Tuesday that his mother was committed to continuing Hank Greenspun's legacy in running the paper in the community's interest.
"As for enduring legacies, my mother would claim that her family is her legacy," Brian Greenspun told the Sun. "We know what she believed and have learned what she taught, and she will expect us to continue, just as she would if she were here."
Barbara Greenspun met and married her husband in Northern Ireland in 1943. In 1950 Hank Greenspun purchased a tri-weekly newspaper and renamed it the Las Vegas Sun. He spent the rest of his life crusading against the powers that be, including the "good old boy" system in Las Vegas and controversial Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy.
After Hank Greenspun's death, she remained devoted to her husband and his legacy.
"She and her husband were a classic team ... and she would talk about him after his death all the time, with great love and fondness," said Rabbi Sanford Akselrad of Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson, where Barbara Greenspun was a member.
As the family's wealth grew, so did its philanthropic efforts.
Barbara and Hank Greenspun were instrumental in creating the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies at UNLV, and over her lifetime donated millions of dollars to the university.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas President Neal Smatresk said she and her family helped shape both the community and the university.
"They all should know that we owe a debt of gratitude to the family," he said Tuesday.
In the 1990s, she created the university's Greenspun Lecture Series. Although the series would eventually attract the likes of Hillary and Bill Clinton, the series started off humbly, attracting national journalists, according to UNLV professor Mary Hausch, who was the first coordinator for the program and worked with Barbara Greenspun often.
"Barbara herself increasingly upped the ante," Hausch said.
Hausch said Greenspun chose many of the speakers and worked to bring them to the university, including Leah Rabin in 1997, whose husband, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated two years before.
She also served as a member of the UNLV Foundation board, helped create the Sun Summer Camp Fund and the Sun Youth Forum and was a member of the Clark County Juvenile Board, according to the Sun. Greenspun Junior High School in Henderson is named after her and her husband.
Her philanthropic efforts were not just focused on Las Vegas.
She was a donor and member of the Board of Trustees for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, an organization devoted to confronting anti-Semitism.
She was also a longtime supporter of Ben Gurion University in Jerusalem, according to the Sun.
Her family wasn't always wealthy, however. When the Sun fell on hard times in the 1970s, the paper could hardly afford $25 for a used typewriter.
"We didn't have the $25. In those days nobody was paying their advertising bills. I used to go down ... to collect $5 at a time," she told the Review-Journal in 1999.
"They knew it was a privilege to have, and when they would give, it would be out of a sense of benefiting the community," Akselrad said.
"We've all lost a dear friend, a wonderful, kind spirit and a towering figure in the history of our community," he added.
Akselrad said as of Tuesday evening services were expected to be held at 3 p.m. Thursday at Congregation Ner Tamid, 55 N. Valle Verde Drive in Henderson. The time could be subject to change.
Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at email@example.com or 702-383-0440.