Written by Jack McCarthy   
Wednesday, 01 January 2014 00:00

 

library-1 COLOR

A structural steel frame is rising at the new Aurora Public Library building at the corner of Benton and River Streets. The facility, set to open in May, 2015, also has a new name: The Richard and Gina Santori Public Library of Aurora. (News Bulletin photo)

 

Santori's $3 million library donation will have lasting benefits

Installation of structural steel has barely started and the opening of Aurora’s new public library is still some 17 months away.

But the projected 97,000-square foot facility at the corner of downtown River and Benton Streets officially has a new identity.

Library patrons will be served at the Richard and Gina Santori Public Library of Aurora when doors officially open starting in May 2015.

The Aurora Public Library Board of Directors recently approved the new name following a $3 million donation by the Richard and Gina Santori Charitable Foundation to the Aurora library foundation.

“There are not adequate words to describe how grateful we are to Dr. Santori,” John Savage,  Aurora Public Library Board of Directors president, said in a statement last week.

Holiday closures and limited hours made it difficult to reach library officials for further comment last week. But a statement on the library’s web site said the donation would fund an endowment for the new library and branches to provide the latest technology throughout the system.

Services will also be devoted to the library’s Teen Center, which will include broadcasting equipment, educational software, music, tablet devices and other technologies yet to emerge.

The donation was made by Dr. Gina Santori, a physician and surgeon on staff at Aurora’s Rush-Copley Medical Center, in memory of her husband, Richard.

“Dr. Santori is truly one of the most kind and inspiring people I have ever met,” Library Director Eva Luckinbill, said in the library statement. “She has an energy about her that is contagious and just makes you want to do more. We are truly grateful for what she is doing for our community.”

In May, 2011, Dr. Santori donated $1.25 million to Rush-Copley Medical Center in her late husband’s memory and as a tribute to his concern for the community. 

“My husband, a self-taught man, was never afforded the education that he held so dear,” Dr. Santori said in the statement. “He studied each morning with the reading of encyclopedias to act as his curriculum. It served him well in his life and he mentored others with his generosity of knowledge and time.”

Richard Santori, who died in 2010, owned several area auto dealerships, including Valley Honda, Valley Imports and Valley Mazda Volkswagen. He also served on committees for the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce, Community Counseling Center and the New York Street Business Association. 

He was also on the board of the University of Chicago Foundation and was active with the  Chicago Area Automotive Dealers Association.

A U.S. Army veteran and Air Force Reserves pilot, Richard Santori was known to offer financial help to family, friends and employees, often anonymously.

Gina Santori, now practicing solely on a pro bono basis treating diabetic and renal patients, began her medical career as a nurse after earning her R.N degree at Chicago’s Truman College. She later returned to school and received her medical degree from the University of Illinois and a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine from Chicago’s College of Podiatric Medicine.

She is currently seeking her third advanced degree — a master’s in Bioethics.

Dr. Santori is an 11-time national black belt champion and ranked third in the world in Shotokan Karate. She ice skates competitively, is an accomplished ballroom dancer and holds a commercial pilot’s license for both sea and land. 

The charitable foundation, established in memory and honor of her late husband, supports educational opportunities at The Santori School in Prey Veng, Cambodia (founded by the Santoris in 2008) as well as college scholarships in the United States in the fields of aviation, medicine and science.

The Aurora Library donation will help support the LIFE  (Learning in an Informal and Fun Environment) Development Center and offer technology tools for schools to introduce students to careers in science, math and more.

Advanced technology and enhanced research offering are expected to benefit every area of the library. 

The new library will be located approximately one block west of the current Stolp Island structure which opened in 1904 after a grant of $50,000 from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  It was remodeled and expanded in 1969.

 

—Jack McCarthy

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 10:42
 
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