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January 20, 2019

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Donor says no $8 million gift if Jessup leaves UNLV

2017 State of the University Address

Steve Marcus

UNLV President Len Jessup delivers the State of the University address at Judy Bayley Theatre on the UNLV campus Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017.

Add $8 million to the funding that UNLV stands to lose if Len Jessup is pushed out as the university’s president.

This morning, an anonymous donor who’d pledged $8 million toward a scholarship fund endowment notified the UNLV Foundation, the university’s fundraising arm, that he would rescind the gift if Jessup were to resign or be fired.

“My investment in the university is largely based on my belief in the strength of President Jessup’s successes, as well as his extraordinary vision and ability to execute thereon,” the donor wrote in a letter to the foundation.

The letter came two days after the Engelstad Family Foundation rescinded a $14 million gift toward construction of UNLV’s medical school building. In addition, a megadonor who contributed $25 million to the medical school, which drew a $25 million match from the state, said the uncertainty surrounding Jessup had prompted her to reconsider the gift and future contributions to UNLV.

As was the case with both of those benefactors, the donor of the $8 million gift said his decision was prompted by displeasure over the Nevada Board of Regents. A faction of regents is pressuring Jessup to leave UNLV, prompted by complaints over several management issues.

The $8 million donor said Jessup had made huge strides as UNLV’s leader — “everything from the medical school, the improved rankings by the Boyd School of Law, the diversity of the student body, the joint use deal for the Raiders stadium, and more.”

“He’s accomplished an amazing number of things in a short time,” he said. “Without him there, there’s an awful lot of question marks.”

As for the complaints raised by the regents, the donor described them as “much ado about nothing.”

“Nothing that has come up has given me any pause for concern,” he said. “I think this particular faction of regents is misguided. They have a personal vendetta against Len, and that’s what they’re acting on.”