Repaying 'Wee Favors'

Grace and Don Schmiedel

Grace and Don Schmiedel sort through old holiday cards at the UNLV Foundation. The UNLV Faculty Staff Holiday Card scholarship works to provide scholarships to deserving students.

For Grace and Don Schmiedel, the decision to support UNLV through an estate gift is based on more than just good financial sense. It's also an emotional choice that reaches deep into their personal values and experience.

Don is an emeritus professor of foreign languages. He and his wife, Grace, moved to Las Vegas from Ohio in 1965 when he began his UNLV teaching career. He retired in 1999.

Grace Schmiedel's eyes tear over as she describes what motivates her giving. "I could never have gone to college without scholarships," she says. Grace earned a master's degree from UNLV's College of Education in 1976 and taught kindergarten in the Clark County School District for 26 years.

As a faculty spouse, she was able to get her graduate degree free of charge through NSHE's fee waiver program.

"I call it the 'wee favor' program," she says with a smile. "But it made a big difference to me. Now I want to help pay back the education I was given."

The Schmiedels are doing just that through participation in UNLV's charitable gift annuity program. By establishing a charitable gift annuity (CGA), they are able to give back to the university and receive dependable payments for life. Their CGA may also help them qualify for a variety of tax benefits.

It's not just through mindful estate planning that the Schmiedels are supporting UNLV. For the past 50 years, they have both been active boosters of the UNLV Faculty Staff Holiday Card scholarship. The program was started by a handful of young and newly relocated faculty and staff in the 1960's.

"The idea was that rather than feel obligated to send a card to all of your colleagues, you'd send one holiday card to the Faculty Club for all," says Don. Along with cards, faculty and staff would include checks to donate to student scholarships. The Faculty Club would print one card recognizing all contributors and distribute it campus wide.

"Money started coming in, and the first year there was enough to award a half of a scholarship," Grace says. "In those days, that was about $300".

While tuition has increased ten-fold, the program continues today; the value of the endowed fund now tops $135,000. Over the past five decades dozens of students from across campus have received help from the Faculty Staff Holiday Card scholarship.

Current scholarship recipient Sarah Bame says that the scholarship helped ease her worries about the amount of student loan debt she was accumulating.

"Every little bit helps, and especially because I want to go on to pursue an advanced degree," says Bame, a criminal justice major. She plans to specialize in rehabilitation programs in corrections facilities.

During the Faculty Staff Holiday Card's 50-year history, notable local artists, faculty, and students have had a hand in creating the artwork for the card. Their unique holiday-themed illustrations and photos capture the spirit of the campus, the Southwest, and the times.

And some 50 years since they started the tradition, Grace and Don Schmiedel look back with fond memories.

"Those were the building days, when things were just getting going here," Don Schmiedel says while the couple sorts through some of the old holiday cards preserved at the UNLV Foundation.

"It is really great, this many years later, to see that the faculty and staff continue the tradition of giving."

Like the Schmiedels', you too can make an impact on our students and our future. To learn more about the different ways you can give, contact Eric Schimmoeller at 702-895-2816 or