Las Vegas mourns the loss of a philanthropic champion


When UNLV’s fledgling medical school went searching for donors to provide scholarships for its charter class, Tom and Mary Kay Gallagher were among the front-line supporters who stepped up.

The couple’s gift, along with those of others who contributed to the cause, was crucial in getting the med school off the ground. Given that the institution had yet to be accredited, students were taking a chance in enrolling here to study — providing the scholarships was a way to offset their risk and display community confidence that the school would get its accreditation.

It worked. The school, now named the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV, attracted a full class of 60 students in 2017, its first year of instruction.

This was one of many, many times that Tom Gallagher, who died last week at age 76, made a difference in the lives of UNLV students and Las Vegas residents outside of the campus community.

Gallagher was the very picture of a civic leader, someone who contributed in an array of roles. The Harvard Law School alum taught business law and ethics at the Boyd School of Law at UNLV, co-founded the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities, served on the boards of the Black Mountain Institute and Desert Research Institute Foundation, and was a longtime board member of the UNLV’s principal fundraising organization, the UNLV Foundation. He also sat on the board of Vegas PBS.

As UNLV President Keith Whitfield remarked, Gallagher made an indelible mark on the university. His contributions benefited generations of students, whether directly through his classroom instruction or scholarship donations, or through his leadership on university boards.

“UNLV will never forget the impact he had here and in Southern Nevada,” Whitfield said.

Away from campus, Gallagher built a legacy in executive and political leadership, with roles that included chief legislative counsel for former U.S. Sen. John Tunney, CEO of Griffin Group and…