Monday, Sept. 28, 1998 | 11:01 a.m.
Jerome D. "Jerry" Mack, a Las Vegas real estate investor who co-founded what is now UNLV, operated downtown and Strip resorts and was a venerable leader in the Jewish community, died Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 77.
Services for the Southern Nevada resident of 69 years who long served as vice chairman of Valley Bank will be 11 a.m. Tuesday at Temple Emanuel, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, Calif.
Delivering eulogies will be his longtime banking partner E. Parry Thomas, Sun Editor Brian Greenspun and Mack's son-in-law, Russell Goldsmith, the president of City National Bank in Los Angeles. No local services are planned.
"I'm deeply saddened by the news," said Nevada Gov. Bob Miller, after learning of Mack's death. "Jerry Mack was not just an early pioneer in Las Vegas. He and Parry Thomas were the men who took the risk -- loaning money to the first casinos. The reward was the community we now live in."
The pioneer Las Vegas financier, in the final stages of a lengthy battle against cancer, was visited at his Los Angeles residence six weeks ago by a longtime friend, Mirage Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn.
Despite his terminal condition, Mack talked only about the future -- the future for his family, the future for his bank and the future for the Las Vegas community he helped build into a booming metropolitan center and the world's gaming capital.
Mack asked Wynn whether the long-awaited Bellagio hotel-casino, to which his Bank of America has extended a substantial line of credit, would open on time. And he chatted about his 50-year lease on a piece of nearby property -- the rent for which he knew he would not live to collect, but that his family would enjoy.
"Jerry had that old merchant banking mentality," Wynn said. "The Macks are the Rothschilds of Las Vegas -- and Jerry was our Baron Rothschild."
Mack and Thomas started the land foundation at UNLV, which in 1967 added 400 acres to the campus. When they later funded the campus basketball stadium, it was named the Thomas & Mack Center in their honor.
"Even though Jerry was very sick, he was sharp to the end, and he wanted to be brought up to date on all the projects," Thomas said Sunday from his home in Sun Valley, Idaho. "Jerry was truly grounded as a citizen of Las Vegas and wanted to do all he could for the good of the community.
"We had a fantastic partnership of 43 years. I can't recall a cross word between us. That's because Jerry could turn 180 degrees on an issue after listening to all sides. He was a man of total integrity and an intense family man."
Mack was past president of the Riviera hotel-casino and past director of the Four Queens hotel-casino and the Dunes hotel-casino.
"Jerry was a visionary who saw the potential in this valley way before anyone else," Wynn said Sunday after learning of the death of his friend of 30 years. "He financed a great many businesses in the valley that grew to become major successes."
Longtime Las Vegas developer Irwin Molasky, upon learning of Mack's death, said, "Today Las Vegas is the loser. This valley owes the Mack family a huge debt of gratitude."
Perhaps nowhere is Mack's contribution to Las Vegas more evident than in higher education. In the 1950s, he worked with Maude Frazer and Archie Grant to establish Nevada Southern College, which became the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
Mack also served on the committee that established the UNLV Board of Trustees. He was chairman of the fund-raiser that built UNLV's Artemus Ham Hall auditorium. Mack also funded numerous scholarships that enabled students to get an education at the institution on South Maryland Parkway.
A graduate of UCLA, Mack served on the ad hoc committee which started that school's board of trustees and was a founding member of the UCLA Chancellors Association. He also was a member of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity.
As a leader in the Jewish community, Mack helped set up the chair for cancer research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He also started a school at Las Vegas' Temple Beth Sholom in the name of his father, Nate Mack, a longtime local business leader.
Jerome Mack was past president of Temple Beth Sholom, past president of B'nai B'rith, a member of the national board of the American Jewish Committee and a member of the United Jewish Appeal's National Committee.
Mack received the Prime Minister's Medal of Israel in 1973 at a Las Vegas dinner. Former Israeli Chief of Staff Zvi Tzur presented the medal on behalf of then-Prime Minister Golda Meir. Also receiving the Prime Minister's Medal that night was late Sun publisher Hank Greenspun.
"This is a tremendous loss for Las Vegas because Jerry was a pioneer who truly believed in the future of this valley," Sun Publisher Barbara Greenspun, Hank's widow, said. "Jerry went way out of his way to help business and industry grow in Las Vegas. He was a good friend to many."
Mack also received Israel's Silver Anniversary Award in 1973 for his work as chairman of the Israel Bond Campaigns from 1959 to 1967. The bonds raised funds for economic development in the Jewish state that was established in 1948.
Born Nov. 6, 1920, in Albion, Mich., Mack was the only son of Nate and Jenny (nee Solomon) Mack.
In 1929, Nate brought his family to Southern Nevada, where he opened a haberdashery. Jerome became a member of the first graduating class at Boulder City Grammar School. He was a member of the Las Vegas High School class of 1938.
While attending UCLA in 1941, Mack, who would go on to earn bachelor's and associate of arts degrees, met Joyce Rosenberg, who was a Los Angeles-area high school student at the time. They married in 1946.
During World War II Mack served in the Army Air Corps as a navigator. While stationed in Texas, he taught navigation.
In 1954, Mack founded the Bank of Las Vegas, which in 1969 he merged with Thomas' five-year-old Valley Bank of Reno to form Valley Bank. Years later, it became Bank of America, which today is part of the largest banking chain in the country.
Mack also was vice president of Continental Connector Corp., vice chairman of United Tanker Group, director for Pioneer Title and Insurance Co., and president of First Bancorporation (Nevada National Bank).
Business Week magazine once called Mack a "financial wizard."
Since 1991, Mack has spearheaded the McCarran Center, a 100-acre master- planned office park a mile south of McCarran International Airport that includes the 200-room Club Hotel by Double Tree and several restaurants.
"He (Mack) was the real estate leader (of Valley Bank) -- one of the two or three best ever in Las Vegas," said Tom Thomas, son of Parry and the managing partner of the Thomas & Mack Co. "He was a mentor to me and my brother Peter."
A significant force in Nevada politics, Mack was financial chairman for the State Democratic Party in the late 1960s, and later was a member of the Democratic National Finance Council and the Democratic National Committee.
In 1958, Mack became state coordinator and treasurer for U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon, a post he held until the early 1980s.
Mack also was Nevada finance chairman for the 1964 Lyndon Johnson presidential campaign and state coordinator for the 1968 Hubert Humphrey presidential campaign.
In 1972, then-Gov. Mike O'Callaghan appointed Mack to serve on the Nevada Tax Commission. Three years later, he was named the group's chairman.
"Jerry's life was dedicated to his family, church and community," said O'Callaghan, who is the executive editor of the Sun. "His financial skills were invaluable to the taxpayers of Nevada and to future generations of Silver State residents."
In the late 1970s, Mack was appointed by then-President Jimmy Carter to serve as a member of the nominating commission for U.S. Circuit Judges for the 9th Circuit Court.
As a civic leader, Mack served on the board of trustees for the Boulder Dam Council of the Boy Scouts of America, was two-term director of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, was a founder and past director of the Boys Club of Nevada and was past chairman for advance gifts for the United Way.
Mack received the United Way Leadership Award in 1972, the year he also earned the National Conference of Christians and Jews Silver Medallion Award.
Mack is survived by his wife, Joyce Mack, of Las Vegas; and three daughters, Barbara Mack Feller Levine and her husband Norman Levine, Karen Mack Goldsmith and her husband Russell, and Marilynn Mack, all of Los Angeles; and nine grandchildren: Rach, Ariella, Adam, Rachel, Brian, Katie, Annie, Jennifer and Albert.
DONATIONS: In Mack's memory to the Jerome Mack Memorial Cancer Fund, Cedars Sinai Hospital, 8700 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif.