Melinda and Joe Kennedy (center) surrounded by their family on the dedication of the Melinda Kennedy Group Study Room in Lied Library.
As an undergraduate, Melinda Kennedy spent many hours holed up in study rooms at the Lied Library, studying for one of her many biology or chemistry courses. When she wasn’t in the classroom or preparing for class, she was at work, earning money to pay for school. To commemorate her hard work, her husband, Joe Kennedy, and their three children made a donation to UNLV Libraries to name a popular first-floor group study room after her. The surprise was a Christmas present, with the official dedication this spring.
“She worked hard. She paid for school herself, and worked full time,” Joe Kennedy said. “I have so much respect for her for doing that, and that’s why it was perfect. I thought it would be nice, that instead of being just from me, the gift could come from the whole family.”
“It was definitely one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me,” Melinda Kennedy added.
Joe and Melinda Kennedy have been members of the UNLV Libraries Advisory Board for the last five years—a step they took together as a service to the university they knew and loved as students. Members of the advisory board serve as liaisons to the community, keeping the libraries connected with residents and educating them about the services they offer both students and all Southern Nevada.
“It was not surprising Joe named this gift to honor Melinda, because they’ve been so involved with our work and have helped get people engaged in the libraries,” said Tamara Josserand, director of development for UNLV Libraries.
“The people on the board are really dedicated and they bring focus to the libraries’ role in education,” Melinda Kennedy said. “Joe and I enjoy serving together. We believe in Patty and in the university, so it’s been a great experience.”
Anyone can donate to UNLV Libraries. There are many opportunities—at all giving levels—to support its mission. Donors can contribute as little or as much as they wish. For example, naming opportunities begin at $100. At this level, donors can choose a book that aligns with the honoree’s interest, and a book plate with a dedication will be placed inside the front cover. It has become a popular way to honor a friend or family member who has passed away, or to pay tribute to an individual’s special achievement. Other items available for commemoration include study tables and designated areas inside the four branches.
“We have a library. We have books, tables and study rooms. We have the ability to offer these items for naming possibilities,” Josserand said. “We want to get as many people involved as possible. Whether they have an interest in business or in Appalachian cats, we will find a book to match. We take gifts of all sizes.” Josserand adds that Libraries rely on private support to enhance its services and grow its collections. Naming opportunities offer members of the community a special way to honor a loved one while, at the same time, helping to advance the Libraries’ mission.
Prior to their financial contribution, being active participants was the Kennedys’ main objective. Making the donation was another step in their involvement. Because of their service on the advisory board they already knew their gift would fund new programs, as many donations do.
The pilot program that became UNLV Libraries’ Business by the Book workshop series was funded by these types of gifts. This is why making a donation to the libraries is an investment not only in students but also in the broader community, said Patricia Iannuzzi, dean of UNLV Libraries.
“We can use the gifts to extend series for UNLV students but also other segments of the community,” Iannuzzi said. “Their funding really allows us to experiment and try pilot programs to see if they fit. A lot of these projects involve education programming, showing how to conduct research in a digital environment. Private funding allows us to serve the community more fully.”
In addition to honoring his wife with this surprise on Christmas morning—and making gift shopping tougher on himself for years to come—Joe Kennedy’s objective was to help UNLV Libraries extend quality services to both its campus users and the region.
“We wanted to do this for the university,” Joe Kennedy said. “It’s really not about us.”
For more information on naming opportunities at any of UNLV Libraries' branches, contact Tamara Josserand at 702-895-2239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.