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Man donates $20M for new library at LMU

August 27, 2009 9:43:21 AM PDT
A new library at Loyola Marymount University is the first built on a local university campus in more than a decade. It's grand opening is on Saturday, August 29, 2009. The library was a result of a handshake deal that was made all the way back in the 1930s. You could say the history of the 121,000 square foot of new construction starts back during the Great Depression with Eugenie Hannon, a mother of six.

Money was tight but Hannon was determined to give her children a good education, so she made a deal; free tuition in exchange for a promise.

"Exactly 75 years ago during the depths of The Great Depression, his mother approached the president of Loyola University," explains Kathy Aikenhead, Hannon's Niece. "At that time it was Loyola University, and asked if her children could come to the university and pay back their tuition after they graduated and got a job."

Tuition then cost $800 a year. But the value of that education was worth much more to the Hannon brothers, particularly William H. Hannon.

"He never forgot that, and he felt that it was his duty really, and his desire to pay back the school for the tuition, for the education that he received here. And he loved the place," said Aikenhead.

After graduation, William became a sales associate with a local real estate developer.

He served six years in the army before returning to real estate, and eventually developed many of the Los Angeles communities that are still around today, including Westchester, Playa Del Rey, and parts of the San Fernando Valley.

Over the years, William amassed tremendous wealth and didn't mind sharing it, even after death. He repaid his tuition to Loyola Marymount University many times over.

His latest gift is nearly $20 million to the William H. Hannon Library.

"We roughly calculated that my uncle William Hannon has paid back his tuition over 35,000 times," says Aikenhead.

"There's two chapters to that story," says David Burcham of Loyola Marymount University. "First the incredible generosity of William Hannon himself, but also the flexibility and the foresight of the Jesuits who ran the university to bend a few rules and to allow the deal to be made. And I'm sure that if they were alive, they wouldn't regret it for an instant."

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