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Charity begins at home

‘Auctioneer’ Christian Kolberg adds unique voice to southern Nevada philanthropy

by John Wheeler

In one of those quirks of human existence, Christian Kolberg’s working life began as a youth delivering the Las Vegas Review-Journal — a newspaper owned by Donrey Media Group, the company founded by media entrepreneur Donald W. Reynolds.

Today, Kolberg is director of communication for the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation — one of the 30 largest charitable foundations in the United States. It’s a long-standing connection with Reynolds that might not have happened had Kolberg followed his original goal.

“From age 15 until I was 20, I worked with Dr. Jim Nave, a local veterinarian so I thought that would be my focus in college,” Kolberg says.

However, as often happens, Kolberg’s direction changed once he began his studies at Nevada. He’d always had an interest in communications, having worked on his high school newspaper and yearbook. After taking a communications course at Nevada as an elective, he decided to make it his focus.

“I vividly remember taking an introductory journalism course that clarified for me I did not want to be a beat journalist at a daily newspaper,” he says. “The professor stated that to be unbiased as a journalist, one should not have an opinion about anything one covered. I figured I was too opinionated to make that work so I’d better find something else,” he adds, with a laugh.

So, he combined journalism and marketing and earned a communications degree. Kolberg began his career at the Review-Journal as a market analyst/promotion coordinator. Over the next 10 years he rose to the position of marketing director. Managing the overall marketing strategy of Nevada’s largest newspaper and its affiliated publications provided the skills necessary for his role with the Reynolds Foundation.

In his capacity at the Reynolds Foundation, Kolberg works with grant recipients offering assistance with their grant-related events, printed materials and press releases. He also does research and coordinates special initiatives of the Foundation while serving as one of its media spokespersons. Simply stated Kolberg says, “I’m here to make it happen.”

The Donald W. Reynolds name is a familiar one to anyone associated with higher education in the state. At Nevada, a personal gift from Reynolds established the Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism and Center for Advanced Media Studies. In 1988, a challenge grant of $4 million from the foundation made possible the construction of the current Reynolds School of Journalism. Then, in 2001, the foundation provided a $5 million endowment grant to the college.

For Kolberg, being involved with such large philanthropic ventures is exciting, but he says his family’s involvement in community organizations gives him and his wife, Lara, more personal satisfaction.

Kolberg’s own record of public service is admirable. He’s served on a wide range of nonprofit boards, 12 of them over the past 20 years. He has long been a supporter of Nevada, having served on various committees for the university as well as supporting the southern Nevada office’s outreach and alumni programs. He currently sits on the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension advisory board.

“Where better can we make an impact as a college and throughout the state than through Cooperative Extension,” Kolberg says. “Essentially, what we’re doing is taking university programs and quality education out to individuals both in urban and rural communities who otherwise cannot be in a formal classroom setting every day.”

Kolberg is also well known for a skill brought to the forefront by chance: that of an auctioneer at charity events. It began after he filled in for a no-show auctioneer at a charity event.

“Doing one event has now turned into doing about 40 events a year,” Kolberg says. He has auctioned off everything from $5 cakes for his niece’s Girl Scout troop to a $95,000 round of golf with Tiger Woods at the professional golfer’s annual charity event, Tiger Jam. “He’s just amazing,” says Suzanne LeBlanc, the executive director of the Lied Children’s Museum in Las Vegas. “Christian combines a humorous, enthusiastic and very lively style with a commanding presence and knowledge, which is undeniably instrumental to our event’s enormous success every year.”

While he didn’t know it at the time, Kolberg says his educational choices at Nevada laid a strong foundation for the path his career has taken — perhaps even exceeding family expectations.

“My dad’s famous philosophy was that if college doesn’t do anything else for you, at least it will make you four years older,” he says with a laugh.

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