University receives $10 million for Health Sciences Building

9/25/2009 - By: Jane Tors

The William N. Pennington Foundation has committed $10 million to the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation for the purpose of a new Health Sciences Building. This brings the total private investment in the building to $15 million, which also includes a $2.5 million gift from the Nell J. Redfield Foundation and a $1 million gift from the Thelma B. and Thomas P. Hart Foundation. These gifts will support construction of the new teaching facility which will be the hub of medical and nursing student activities.

“This gift will have an important, lasting impact for our state,” said University President Milt Glick. “Nevada continues to face a shortage of doctors and nurses. The expansion of these teaching programs will go a long way toward addressing the shortage. Ultimately, this generous gift will improve the quality of healthcare for generations to come.”

The new facility, anticipated to open in Fall 2011, will allow the University of Nevada School of Medicine to expand its class size from 62 to 100 students, for an eventual, total enrollment of 400 medical students. The number of Orvis School of Nursing students will double for an eventual, total enrollment of about 300 students. Construction is anticipated to begin in early 2010.

The concept of the William N. Pennington Health Sciences Building reflects the increasing trend toward interdisciplinary healthcare teams.

“Optimal health care is achieved when medical and healthcare professionals come together as an interdisciplinary team,” said John McDonald, vice president of the University’s Division of Health Science. “The Pennington Health Sciences Building will be the cornerstone of this new focus on comprehensive, interdisciplinary care. Students, faculty and staff in medicine and nursing will work, study and train together in this learning environment.”

The 59,000-square-foot William N. Pennington Health Sciences Building will be adjacent to the existing Pennington Medical Education Building. It will be constructed to meet sustainable, environmentally friendly building standards, and will include classrooms, laboratories and simulated patient-care settings where students will participate in educational role-play with trained patients and faculty observers. Funding of $3 million for planning was allocated by the 2007 Nevada State Legislature and $31 million in construction bonding has been approved as part of the 2009 Nevada State Legislature’s Capital Improvement Project budget, with an additional $15 million in private matching funds.

“Our legislative leaders and governor are to be commended for the priority they have given this project,” Glick said. “Their continued support of this vital Capital Improvement Project is clear recognition that our state’s leaders wish to find innovative policy and cutting-edge project solutions for Nevada’s future healthcare challenges.”

William “Bill” Pennington has been a Nevada entrepreneur involved in Wildcat oil drilling, real estate development and electronic gaming. In 1974, he and his partner acquired the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. They expanded the company to Reno in 1978 and took the company public in 1983, which generated additional revenue for continued expansion to include the Excalibur and Luxor Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas and the Edgewater and Colorado Belle in Laughlin, Nev. Circus Circus Enterprises later became the core for the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. Over the years, his company was recognized as introducing a focus on family entertainment and service to Nevada’s tourism industry. Pennington retired in 1988.

“Mr. Pennington is a generous individual, a visionary and a highly respected industry leader,” said Glick. “It is fitting that this innovator and pioneer is advancing medical and nursing education – fields that are dramatically impacted by new advancements and technologies. This building will be transformative for this University, our community and the citizens of Nevada.”

A longtime supporter of the University, Pennington was named a Distinguished Nevadan by the Nevada System of Higher Education in 1997 for his outstanding contributions to higher education in the state. He received an honorary degree from the University in 2008. In addition to his contributions to the Pennington Medical Education Building, the William N. Pennington Foundation funds medical and undergraduate scholarships and funded major improvements of St. Mary’s Hospital emergency facility and the Renown prenatal care expansion. This latest, $10 million gift will be made to the University of Nevada Foundation.

“We are deeply appreciative of Mr. Pennington,” said Glick. “This generous gift reflects the long-standing, well-established commitment of Mr. William N. Pennington to health education for the benefit of all of Nevada.”


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