Friends Discover They Have Common Ground Through Giving
Cast a pebble in a pond and ripples roll across the surface touching everything. So it is with the estate gifts of two good friends, UNLV Professor Gail Sammons and James Brewer. Brewer is the husband of another faculty member, Dr. Pearl Brewer, professor and director of graduate studies at the UNLV William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration.
Dr. Sammons, now an associate professor at the College of Hotel Administration, and the Brewers met at Penn State, where Dr. Pearl Brewer served on the faculty and was Dr. Sammon's mentor during her doctoral studies. Drawn by the reputation of the Harrah Hotel College, the two professors moved to UNLV "while I tagged along," says Jim Brewer.
Over dinner one night with the Brewers, Dr. Sammons described her plans to make an estate gift to the hotel college. She said she wanted to give back to the institution where, in 1987, she earned her master's degree in hotel management.
At that point, Jim said he, too, had made a provision for the hotel college in his will. That provision was unknown to UNLV, however. Dr. Sammons directed him to Judy Nagai, director of external relations at the college, who helped document the gift to ensure that his intentions would be realized.
With Nagai's assistance, Dr. Sammons established the Gail Sammons Professional Development Fund to provide stipends for graduate students and faculty members, enabling them to attend professional conferences and pursue research opportunities. "When you support faculty and teaching, it allows students to be better prepared and to go out and make their mark in the world," she explains. "The best taught, best prepared students benefit their employers and make a concrete contribution to their community."
In addition to her bequest gift, Dr. Sammons, who received support when she was a student, began making regular contributions to advance the establishment of her fund. "I have always been well aware of supporting one's alma mater. As an undergraduate, I worked with alumni and saw them give back. It made an impression on me," she says.
Brewer's gift may be used at the discretion of the college. "I want the dean to have the freedom to choose the area of greatest need," he says. "With state budget cuts, there is a great need to be addressed."
Now retired, Jim Brewer is a former mathematician with a master's degree focusing on abstract algebra. He jokes, "I couldn't make a living at that, and that's when I changed gears to gear boxes." He traveled across the country selling gear parts. "I just know that if I didn't make this gift, the ability of the university to serve the community would be greatly diminished," he adds.
The friends' gifts will benefit not only initial recipients— students and researchers at Harrah's College of Hotel Administration—but, through the accomplishments of these scholars, they will reach across the community and improve its economic and social well-being.