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April 12, 2013

Community celebrates dedication of Kitty DeGree Hall at ULM

Philanthropist Kitty DeGree devoted her life to bettering the community, and today the community recognized her unparalleled dedication.

University of Louisiana at Monroe faculty, staff, students, and community officials celebrated the dedication of Kitty DeGree Hall, formerly known as the ULM Nursing Building.

ULM President Dr. Nick J. Bruno called Kitty a “philanthropist who gave, but never asked.”

“She said she wanted to ensure that what she did for this university would go on long after she had left. Today is the result of her commitment,” Bruno said.

“One of the things this university must keep in mind is the spirit of Kitty DeGree, and that is to give and not to expect anything in return. We can make a difference at this university…then we can change this region.”

Cindy Rogers, President of the Kitty DeGree Foundation, recognized ULM’s efforts to honor Kitty’s legacy.

“As long as community organizations such as ULM continue to remember her and acknowledge her time and her presence, her life indeed does continue,” Rogers said.

“She believed in higher education and believed that the solution to a lot of our economic problems could be solved by higher education.”

Sarah Hayes, the holder of the Kitty DeGree Endowed Professorship for the Speech and Hearing Clinic, is a clinical assistant professor in the speech-language pathology department and clinical coordinator for the ULM Kitty DeGree Speech and Hearing Center, located in Sugar Hall.

Hayes said Kitty’s support has resulted in valuable resources for ULM students.

“The Kitty DeGree Endowed Professorship has allowed us to expand our materials to include many items which support current research. All of these resources help our students provide the most appropriate treatments to their patients both on and off the campus.”

Pam Bratton, Director of the St. Francis Kitty DeGree Breast Health Center & Kitty DeGree Breast Health Imaging, talked about Kitty’s passion for breast health awareness.

“Kitty was always gracious, kind, and extremely passionate about the Breast Center. When we talked, she always wanted to discuss young women and breast cancer and how we could ‘get the word out’ to all women, but especially young women,” Bratton said.

“She continued to provide the latest equipment and technology and the ability to not only get the word out, but to elevate and provide the best care to the women and men with breast disease in Northeast Louisiana and our surrounding communities.”

Kitty embodied the spirit of selflessness, said Louis Bremer, President and CEO of St. Francis Medical Center.

“As I think about Kitty and all that she has done for the community and for St. Francis Medical Center, I cannot help but think that if Francis of Assisi were here today, he would tell all of us that Ms. Kitty should be our role model in how we live our life.

"Kitty, just like St. Francis, spent much of her life helping the sick, the needy and the poor. She was a strong supporter of so many causes … I believe St. Francis would say that Kitty should be an inspiration to all of us on how to live one’s life.”

More about Kitty DeGree

Last year, in recognition of her unparalleled devotion, ULM President Dr. Nick J. Bruno requested to change ULM School of Nursing’s program name to the Kitty DeGree School of Nursing. Bruno’s request was approved at the University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, June 18, 2012, in Baton Rouge.

DeGree's dedication to ULM ensured the remarkable progress of several university programs and facilities.

Kitty's capital gifts include: the Kitty DeGree Computer Center, which is the key student resource area of the Clarke M. Williams Student Success Center; the Kitty DeGree Pharmacy Student Resource Center/Library; and the Kitty DeGree Speech and Hearing Center.

When the president's former home—now known as University House—was moved to allow the building of the new library, Kitty funded its refurbishment, which has accommodated dignitaries from all over the world.

DeGree also provided funding for the focal part of the University Library and Conference Center, including the entry tower. The Kitty DeGree Bell Tower is now an icon and one of the official university logos.

In May 1989, the university conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Law degree to Kitty, and in 2009 she was named a Trustee Emeritus member of the ULM Foundation Board.

She also received the inaugural Hall of Distinction Award in 2004, which is the university's most prestigious award recognizing those who have honored ULM through a lifetime of distinction and exemplary service, and in support for, or promotion of the university.

Also befitting her exceptional generosity, the ULM Foundation Board of Trustees voted to name the university's major gifts recognition society, the Kitty DeGree Bell Tower Society.

Membership in the society is based upon the donor's lifetime giving to the university and begins at the $50,000 level.

After an additional seven-figure gift to the university, the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors approved the naming of the Kitty DeGree School of Nursing in June 2012.

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