Kitty Rodman Center namesake known for ‘smashing through the glass ceiling’

Members of Opportunity Village believed they had a real-life guardian angel watching over the organization for 60 years.

Her name was Kitty Rodman.

“Kitty was an angel to Opportunity Village,” said Linda Smith, the associate executive director of Opportunity Village. “The day we lost Kitty, it was raining and we saw a rainbow over the Kitty Rodman Center. We know she is still watching over us.”

Rodman was a longtime advocate for Opportunity Village and the namesake for the Kitty Rodman Center, which was built in 2000 inside the Walker Family Campus, 451 E. Lake Mead Parkway.

Rodman died in February after battling Parkinson’s disease.

“I’m saddened by the news of Ms. Kitty’s passing but stand in awe of the life she lived and the lives she touched,” said Tom Thomas, a longtime member of Opportunity Village’s Foundation Board, in a statement.

Smith said though the staff is sad for its loss, Rodman’s legacy lives on.

“Kitty was basically the person that believed in the potential of Opportunity Village more than anyone else,” Smith said. “We called her the matriarch.”

Rodman had been involved with Opportunity Village since 1954.

Because of Rodman, the center developed things such as a performing arts center and an employment training center for many of the people at Opportunity Village to learn job skills.

Smith said one of her strongest attributes was her ability to care for the people.

“She listened to the families,” Smith said.

Smith isn’t just an employee at Opportunity Village.

“My son is in special education,” she said. “Kitty would listen to me and him. She would hear what he needed.”

Being in special education, Smith’s son didn’t have opportunities for theater, music or art as other students had.

“But he liked all those things,” she added.

Rodman funded a visual arts center for people at Opportunity Village to have access to the arts.

When Rodman saw a vision, she put her money where her mouth was.

“Some donors don’t want to be the first ones to put dollars in,” Smith said.

But Rodman invested first and others followed suit.

In her personal life, Smith said Rodman was a savvy businesswoman.

“She had nerves of steel and a conviction as hard as concrete,” Smith said. “At that time, many women were still in the back seat. She was smashing through the glass ceiling.”

She started two construction companies that were responsible for the development of multiple hotels and buildings for the Clark County School District.

In 2007, she was inducted into the UNLV Nevada Business Hall of Fame. Because of her contributions to UNLV, one of the residence halls was also named for her.

On the outside, Smith said Rodman was a perfect Southern lady.

“You would go over to her house for tea, and she would set the table,” she said. “Everything had to be perfect.”

Smith said Rodman was also funny.

“She was a hoot,” she said. “She would always make me laugh.”

Aside from Opportunity Village, Smith said Rodman would support every nonprofit around town, buying tables at fundraisers and benefits.

“Her generosity was felt throughout the city,” she said.

For Smith, it isn’t just losing a mentor but also a friend.

“We would talk on a daily basis,” she said. “It’s weird this is the first year Opportunity Village won’t have Kitty. It’s very scary to think about. Very few Kitty Rodmans come along in the world.”

Contact Henderson View reporter Michael Lyle at or 702-387-5201.


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