A Las Vegas-based foundation created in 1954 and built on a media empire has become one of the nation's leading philanthropic organizations.
Donald W. Reynolds owned more than one hundred media outlets–print, broadcasting, and outdoor advertising–during his long publishing career, which began in 1927 and continued until his death in 1993. Perhaps his greatest success came in Las Vegas where he owned the Las Vegas Review-Journal, long the largest newspaper in Nevada. For many years, Reynolds owned radio and television stations. His foundation had existed for forty years, but became more active after his death and the sale of his Donrey Media Group to Arkansas businessman Jackson Stephens in 1994.
With assets of $1 billion, the Reynolds Foundation, under the leadership of longtime Donrey executive Fred Smith, has aided numerous educational institutions and civic organizations. Reynolds had endowed the University of Nevada Reno's School of Journalism, which bears his name. His foundation has gone on to fund many buildings and groups in Nevada and elsewhere, especially in the fields of journalism (including the largest donation ever to Reynolds's alma mater, the University of Missouri), education (including a center at George Washington's Mount Vernon plantation), medical research, aging, child care, and women's health. The foundation contributed more than $10 million apiece to the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno and Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada. It has been a major donor to Great Basin College in Elko, the Shade Tree Shelter for homeless women and children in Las Vegas, the Nevada Ballet Theatre, the Assistance League of Las Vegas, and the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.
Smith said, "I spent forty-five years of my life making money, and now I'm giving it away. I hope I can direct giving it away intelligently. Frankly, it is easier making money than giving it away intelligently." The Reynolds Foundation has lived up to that hope as one of the fifty largest private foundations in the United States.
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