When students at the University of California, Merced first enter the Kolligian Library in the fall of 2004, the names of Melanie, Stanley, Stuart and Michelle may be unfamiliar. By the time they leave the fourth-floor reading room, these children will be difficult to forget.

Last week, almost a year after her four children were murdered by her ex-husband while she was on a morning jog, Dr. Christine McFadden made a $250,000 donation for additional construction on the planned UC Merced library. The improvements her gift will pay for include special wood paneling, furniture and fixtures that would not normally be covered by state funds.

McFadden made the donation on behalf of the nonprofit McFadden-Willis Children Memorial Foundation to preserve her children’s memory while supporting an institution dedicated to the same values as McFadden and her children: education.

“From the time my children were little, we talked about the importance of a college education,” McFadden said. “I am a strong advocate that education is the way to improve one’s lifestyle.”

McFadden has been a veterinarian for the past 21 years, since graduating from UC Davis. Her former husband, John Hogan, was distressed over the couple’s divorce and shot to death their daughter, 5-year- old Michelle and his three step-children, Stuart, 14, Stanley, 15, and Melanie, 17, before turning the gun on himself. The father of his three stepchildren is Thomas Willis.

McFadden said donating to UC Merced had more personal meaning than other opportunities for giving money since the deaths of her children had such a large impact on the Merced community where her children went to school and where she continues to live.

“My children were such extraordinary people; they excelled in school,” McFadden said. “I was looking for ways to memorialize them in a meaningful way.”

UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey said in a statement that the fourth-floor reading room will be formally named The McFadden/Willis Reading Room to honor the memory of the McFadden/Willis children.

“Dr. McFadden and the foundation are creating an educational legacy that will benefit young people for generations to come,” Tomlinson-Keasey said. “I am touched that [she] has chosen UC Merced as a partner in this legacy.”

McFadden said she felt the library’s location and the position of the reading room on the fourth floor would “let her children’s light shine over the world.”

“It’s higher than all the other floors and looks out over the valley; it’s very comfortable,” McFadden said.

After the children were killed, McFadden said she received many donations from well-wishers.

“People sent in money just to be nice. I didn’t spend a single penny, it all went into the foundation.”

McFadden said some money for the library donation came from a loan she took out against her house and that the idea to fund additional library construction came after she considered many other philanthropic pursuits.

“I first looked into making a smaller donation of $10,000 to name a soccer camp after my children, but I wanted something that all four of my kids stood for. I wasn’t interested in the adult agenda, I’ve really been disappointed by many adult suggestions for what I should donate money for,” McFadden said.

McFadden said the suggestion of a skate park struck her as particularly inappropriate.

“A skate park isn’t something that would keep families together. I want something that will benefit everybody.”

In keeping with this goal of creating something that will benefit families of her entire community, McFadden has developed “Friendship Scholarships” through her foundation for Merced high school students.

The initial four monetary scholarships will pay awardees $4,000 per year for each year they are enrolled in a four-year college or university. The scholarships are not grade point average or financial need-based but applicants need to show strong friendship qualities through letters of recommendation from peers.

“My children all had good intentions,” McFadden said. “They had a lot to offer.”