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COMMENTARY: Generous donor deserves community’s gratitude

In his, Dec. 29 essay “Sometimes regents need to just say no,” Steve Sebelius makes some salient points. But I disagree with his criticism regarding Kris Engelstad McGarry.

I don’t know Ms. Engelstad McGarry well, but I do know of the extraordinary contributions that she has made to improve the quality of life for all of us who live in Southern Nevada. Tens of thousands of our fellow citizens have benefited from her generosity and philanthropic giving. I have witnessed her extraordinary contributions firsthand, and I believe many of you have too, although you may not realize it because she refuses to be honored or even acknowledged for what she has done and continues to do.

When I watch a performance at The Smith Center, I appreciate her support for that magnificent facility, which has enriched the culture of our community.

When my family feeds the homeless at Catholic Charities, I know that the Engelstad Foundation is responsible for its continued ability to serve and protect the most vulnerable among us.

When my son Max adopted his two dogs, he went to the Animal Foundation, which is supported in large part by Ms. Engelstad McGarry. Jimmy and Vito are now a special part of our family.

The vision and goal of Three Square to eliminate hunger in our community may be realized in the foreseeable future thanks to the generous support of Ms. Engelstad McGarry.

When I visit Opportunity Village and see the safe and loving environment in which the developmentally challenged spend their waking hours, I quietly thank Ms. Engelstad McGarry for her help in creating this remarkable place where its clients can reach their full potential.

When I attend the Blind Center of Nevada’s annual fundraising gala later this year, I know that hundreds of sightless Nevadans have a facility to call their own thanks to the generosity of Ms. Engelstad McGarry.

Although Mr. Sebelius focused on contributions to the UNLV Medical School, he failed to mention the $12 million in scholarship money she has provided for students attending my alma mater. In many instances, that scholarship money is the difference between attending college and not.

I have had the privilege of being the CEO and senior provost of Touro University Nevada for the past six years. In that time, the Engelstad Foundation helped Touro create its first scholarship endowment for our medical students and provided the funding for our three mobile clinics that allow our students to provide basic medical care to thousands of disadvantaged Nevadans who have no other access to health care.

The Metropolitan Police Department will be conducting disaster training for its officers at Touro University Nevada thanks to a grant from the Engelstad Foundation. This training will save lives in a mass casualty situation, and we have Ms. Engelstad McGarry to thank for that.

I, along with countless numbers of my fellow citizens, owe Kris Engelstad McGarry a great debt of gratitude for her unwavering support and commitment to our community. There is no way to appropriately thank her, but she should know that we are very grateful for her support, her commitment, her generosity and her love. Should she have an opinion on the use of her resources, I would suggest that we listen and learn from one of the great philanthropists of our generation.

Shelley Berkley, a former member of Congress and university regent, is CEO and senior provost of Touro University Western Division.

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