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December 19, 2014

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Don Snyder gets chancellor’s nod to become UNLV’s acting president

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Paul Takahashi

UNLV Now project leader Don Snyder updates Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents on the status of UNLV’s stadium proposal on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.

Updated Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 | 3:24 p.m.

Nevada higher education Chancellor Dan Klaich has recommended that UNLV stadium point man Don Snyder become the university's acting president.

Over the past week, Klaich has met with UNLV administrators, faculty, staff, students and alumni to make his recommendation for acting president.

In a memo to the UNLV campus, Klaich said he would recommend Snyder, executive dean for strategic development, to serve as UNLV’s temporary president while the Nevada System of Higher Education searches for a permanent replacement.

"Don Snyder knows UNLV; he knows Las Vegas and Nevada," Klaich wrote in his recommendation. "He understands business, education, philanthropy and major projects. ... At a time when the community, and in particular the business community, needs to be linked to UNLV closer than ever before, the perfect bridge is Don Snyder."

The 13-member Nevada Board of Regents is expected to vote on Klaich's recommendation during a special meeting Friday. A simple majority – seven votes – is required to confirm Snyder as acting president.

Regents Chairman Kevin Page said Snyder was interested in becoming acting president but not the permanent post.

In his report to regents, Klaich said he looked at several candidates for acting president, including former UNLV president Carol Harter, John White, UNLV executive vice president and provost, and Juanita Fain, UNLV vice president for student services.

Klaich said he gave his "unqualified recommendation" for Snyder over the other candidates because of his "unparalleled business career" in banking, gaming and capital fundraising. The chancellor said he was not concerned that Snyder was not a “traditional academic” because he has the support from a team of deans, provosts and financial advisers at UNLV.

“One individual (during the public input meetings) commented that Don is smart enough to leave running of the academics to that team,” Klaich wrote. “I agree.”

Snyder spent 22 years with First Interstate Bank (now Wells Fargo), served in several executive leadership positions at Fremont Street Experience and Boyd Gaming Corp. and raised money to build the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

Snyder joined UNLV as dean of the Hotel College in 2010. During his tenure as dean and chairman of the UNLV Foundation Board, Snyder helped raise $537 million for the university’s inaugural capital campaign.

Last year, Snyder stepped down as dean to lead the university’s efforts to build an on-campus football stadium. Snyder currently serves as chairman of the UNLV Campus Improvement Authority Board, which is tasked with recommending a stadium proposal to the Nevada Legislature by September.

Snyder has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Wyoming and a certificate from the graduate school of credit and financial management at Stanford University. Snyder also serves on several local nonprofit boards, including the Smith Center, Nathan Adelson Hospice and the Governor’s Workforce Development Board. He also has experience on the boards of several Las Vegas gaming and tourism boards.

Klaich said Snyder was in a unique position to carry on outgoing President Neal Smatresk’s vision to make UNLV into a top-tier, internationally-renowned research university with a dedicated medical school and on-campus football stadium.

“Mr. Snyder continues everything that is positive at UNLV,” Klaich said. “His close ties to the business community and philanthropic community will send a message to those groups how important they are to UNLV’s success.”

If approved as acting president, Snyder would lead the university for a period of six months to a year, the anticipated timeframe for the presidential search. If Snyder becomes acting president, he would not be eligible to apply for the permanent presidency.

If the regents don’t agree with Klaich’s recommendation, they could vote on another candidate for acting president or move to appoint an interim president. An interim choice, who would serve for a period of one to three years while being groomed to be president on a permanent basis, would require a supermajority (nine votes) from regents.

Regents also are expected to vote Friday whether to conduct a national search for UNLV’s next president. Smatresk submitted his resignation last month, with an effective date of Feb. 2. The following day, Smatresk will take the helm of the University of North Texas, near Dallas.

If regents decide to conduct a national search, the next step will be to convene a presidential search committee, a group of six regents and an advisory board of faculty, administrators, staff, students, alumni and community members. The committee would recommend a name for the permanent president to the Board of Regents.

To cast a wide net for diverse and qualified candidates, regents also would likely hire an executive search firm.

Regents hope to hire the 10th president of UNLV by Sept. 1.

High respect for other candidates

Here’s what Klaich had to say about the other candidates for acting president:

Carol Harter, former UNLV president and director of the Black Mountain Institute

“It is clear that Carol Harter has a great deal of support on campus, primarily from faculty. She is appropriately touted for her distinguished academic career and her lengthy and successful presidency at UNLV. Comments indicated that she could hit the ground running and that she knows how to run a University. Dr. Harter has built a wonderful center of excellence in the Black Mountain Institute. She knows the university budget and is familiar with the community. There is no doubt in my mind that she could do the job of acting president. Notwithstanding, I believe by far the strongest candidate is Mr. Don Snyder.”

John Valery White, executive vice president and provost

“This conclusion to recommend an acting president eliminates my consideration of John White for that position. If I were to recommend Provost White as acting President, he would be precluded from applying for the permanent position. During our campus and community visit, many individuals expressed the opinion that Provost White would be a strong candidate in this or any search in which he chose to be a candidate. I agree and therefore have eliminated him from consideration as acting President that would preclude him from participating in the search.”

Juanita Fain, UNLV vice president for student services

“The two (candidates) mentioned with the greatest frequency are President Emerita Carol Harter and Executive Dean for Strategic Priorities Don Snyder. THis is not to discount the service of Dr. Juanita Fain in any fashion. Dr. Fain has served UNLV with great loyalty and distinction. She is a true advocate for every student on this campus and has my deepest respect. I respect her as a colleague and value her as a friend and confidante. However, I will focus this discussion on Carol Harter and Don Snyder for whom the most support has been exhibited.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story stated that Snyder had a graduate degree from Stanford University. Snyder completed a certificate program from the Graduate School of Credit and Financial Management at Stanford. The Sun regrets the error. | (January 24, 2014)

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