Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Inside a Bellagio ballroom crowded with 1,000 UNLV donors and alumni, the spotlight was cast on an individual, a family and a company during the UNLV Foundation's annual honors dinner on Tuesday night.
Each was highlighted in a special segment to thank donors before a keynote address by former President Bill Clinton.
UNLV alumnus Bob Boughner received the Palladium Award for donating at least $1 million to UNLV. The Lee family and Caesars Entertainment and the Caesars Foundation each received the Palladium Diamond Award for donating at least $10 million to the university.
Combined, the three award recipients’ donations have helped enhance the university with scholarships and funding for research programs, adding educational and career opportunities. They are also part of a community that donated $55 million in the past year, an increase of $21 million from the previous year.
As public funding for the school has dwindled in recent years, UNLV President Neal Smatresk said these donations have become crucial for the university to grow.
“The gifts we get in general are supporting endowed scholarship funds and endowed faculty funds that are critical for us to be able to attract the best and brightest,” Smatresk said.
Boughner’s contribution to the university came in 2007. He had graduated from UNLV in the late 1970s, which led to a successful career at Boyd Gaming and currently as CEO of Atlantic City resort Borgata. Boughner said he realized that current Harrah Hotel College students might need help to prepare for the future.
So he decided to donate money to create a career services program within the Harrah Hotel College named Bob Boughner Career Services Center. The center has helped build a program to prepare students for the hospitality industry.
“I saw an opportunity for the university and hotel college in particular,” Boughner said. “Students need the opportunity to become exposed to the industry that they spent four years learning about.”
The Lee family (Ted, Doris, Greg, Dana and Earnest) has now become synonymous with the business school, which bears their name. The family donated $15 million to the business school, which is one of the largest amounts in the 54-year history of the school.
Ted Lee said the family wanted to help the business school become an asset to the community. The money was used to create an endowed professorship position to attract top junior faculty in high-need areas, provide a scholarship program, and a lecture series by a visiting professor.
“We put the money in to help improve the image of UNLV, and make it more able to service the local community so they’re better trained and educated,” Lee said.
Caesars CEO and President Gary Loveman received the award on behalf of the Caesars Foundation and Caesars Entertainment, which have supported UNLV for the past 40 years, providing scholarships and establishing a leadership program at the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada, among other things.
Smatresk said these donations, as well as the investments from alumni and others, have allowed the school to continue to uphold and improve its educational standard, and someday soon reach 100,000 alumni.
“These are the people who committed to the university because they realized Las Vegas had to have a great university,” Smatresk said. “You go through some of our senior donors to those who are just coming in — they all have something in common, that they believe in the power of education to transform a region and the economy.”