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Welcome to the UNLV Presidents and Campus Leaders page. Below is a brief history of each UNLV President and Campus Leader since 1951.
James R. Dickinson, 1951-1957
James R. Dickinson was appointed the first adminstrator and full-time instructor at the Southern Regional Division of the University of Nevada. He also served at it's registrar. Classes were held within Las Vegas High.
William D. Carlson was the Dean of Men and Student Affairs at the University of Nevada in Reno before he became Dean of the Southern Regional Division of the University of Nevada. During his tenure additional land for the campus on Maryland Parkway was acquired, the first campus master plan developed and its first buildings were constructed.
In 1965, the Board of Regents established the Southern Regional Division as an independent university named Nevada Southern University. Donald Moyer was first Chancellor, and after the university's reorganization in 1968, President. The UNLV Alumni Association was created during his presidency.
Donald Baepler, July 1968-March 1969 (Acting President)
Donald Baepler, Vice President of Academic Affairs (Provost) was asked to serve as interim President after the resignation of President Moyer. He held this position until Roman J. Zorn became president in 1969 and returned to the office of Vice President of Academic Affairs which office he held until 1974 when he was appointed President. During his nine months as acting president, the UNLV Football team played its first schedule in the fall of 1968.
President Roman J. Zorn received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. He was president of Keene State College in New Hampshire before he came to UNLV. During his tenure as president, UNLV received a $5 million gift for student scholarships from the DeVos family. In 1969, the name Nevada Southern University was changed to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In 1973, Zorn left the presidency and returned to his faculty position in the history department.
Donald Baepler was the only UNLV President to also serve as Chancellor of the University of Nevada System. Baepler became president of UNLV in 1973 after having served as Vice President of Academic Affairs and as interim President in 1968. Baeplar’s presidency saw much campus construction including the Paul McDermott Physical Education Complex, Artemus W. Ham Hall, and the Juanita Greer White Hall. In 1978 Baeplar was appointed Chancellor of the Nevada University System which office he held until 1981. He returned to UNLV to become Director of the Natural History Museum, later the Harry Reid Center for Environmental Research, from which position he retired in 2004.
Brock Dixon, 1978-1979 (Acting President)
Brock Dixon came to UNLV in 1971 as Vice President of Administration. He served as interim President when Donald Baeplar moved to the Chancellor’s Office in 1978. When Leonard Goodall became President in 1979, Dixon returned to his position as Vice President for Administration.
President Leonard Goodall presided over a turbulent but expansive period of the university’s history. The Thomas and Mack Center, Claes Oldenburg’s Flashlight sculpture and the library addition were constructed. UNLV Foundation and the School of Engineering were established during his presidency. He returned to teaching in the department of Public Administration in 1984 and retired in 2000.
President Robert Maxson raised more than $100 million in private funding for the University. He presided over a campus building boom including the Classroom Building Complex, Rod Lee Bigelow Health Sciences Building, and the Robert Bigelow Physics Building. It was during his presidency that Jerry Tarkanian’s Running Rebels Basketball team won the NCAA Championship in 1990. His conflict with Tarkanian over violations of NCAA rules led to much public controversy at the end of his presidency.
President Kenny Guinn, the future Governor of Nevada, was a local businessman, civic leader, and former Superintendent of the Clark County School District before being appointed by the regents as acting president upon the controversial resignation of Robert Maxon. During his year with UNLV, a period of budgetary shortfalls, he stabilized the university's financial and administrative affairs.
In 1995, Carol C. Harter became UNLV's first female president. Under her leadership new university planning was initiated, and the mission of UNLV to become a premier research institution first articulated. During her presidency the intercollegiate athletic program was stabilized, the William S. Boyd School of Law and the School of Dental Medicine were established, a new health sciences campus established at Shadow Lane, the Institute of Modern Letters established with Nobel-Laureate Wole Soyinka, and the new Lied Library built. She inaugurated the university’s first capital campaign. She is currently the Executive Director of the Black Mountain Institute.
David B. Ashley became UNLV's eighth president in 2006. He was the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at the University of California, Merced before coming to UNLV. He begins a tenure at a university with an enrollment exceeding 28,000 students and a mission to lead the university fully committed to research.
Neal Smatresk, 2009-
Neil J. Smatresk becomes President of UNLV in 2009. He has served as Executive Vice President and Provost for UNLV since 2007. He was formerly the Chief Acedemic Officer at the University of Hawaii at Monoa from 2004-2007.
The historical note information was supplied by the book Reinventing the System: higher education in Nevada, 1968-2000 by James W. Hulse with Leonard Goodall and Jackie Allen.