Las Vegas Sun

September 20, 2021

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Where I Stand:

Nevada is better off, thanks to Robert Lang


L.E. Baskow

Robert Lang, Brookings Mountain West co-director, replies to former Regional Transportation Commission Chairman Bruce Woodbury as they discuss the potential of light rail in Las Vegas at the Greenspun Media Group offices on Thursday, May 26, 2016.

Note: Lindy Schumacher is the CEO of the Fulfillment Fund Las Vegas.

In this and her previous responsibilities with the Dream Fund and Lincy Foundation, she has played a pivotal role in the creation of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV as well as the Lincy Institute. She was there at the very beginning of Robert Lang’s tenure and in many ways is the primary reason for his coming to Las Vegas.

— Brian Greenspun

“I want him,” I said, the first time I listened to Rob Lang speak to an audience. It was over 10 years ago.

My partner at the Lincy Foundation responded, “You mean the other man, Mark?” No, Mark was brilliant, but too nice. Nevada would eat him alive. We like to destroy people who are not from here, and I knew Rob had the backbone for this work. More than that, Rob knew us better than we knew ourselves.

“I want the other one, the funny one. I want Rob,” I said.

Thus began the Lincy Institute and Brookings Mountain West marriage. It was a great idea, but it needed a great person. Rob agreed to uproot his safety, security and family to roll the dice on a new idea in a funky and not very sophisticated market — the opposite of the D.C. Beltway he was born to rule. The concept was simple: Make Nevada stronger, unravel our past and set us up for a more fair and lucrative future. Fair was defined by evening the playing field north to south and getting us on the radar for federal funding. I made a list. It included but was not limited to:

1. Get the south a much-needed medical school

2. Maybe a stadium and a professional sports team

3. Unravel the dysfunctional higher education system and fix the funding formula.

4. Fix a very broken transportation system — for tourists and for locals.

5. Call local leaders to account when they fail to act boldly, wisely and fairly toward the millions of people who call Southern Nevada home. Conversely, help them find the way forward through facts, data and, when needed, persuasion.

The list was a long and winding road that spanned medicine to infrastructure to education. They responded. It was possible, but it would have to be a 10-year plan. I guess the folks at Brookings Mountain West underestimated themselves. For sure, they underestimated Rob. Most of that list — an impossible task to complete in 10 years — was added to regularly and accomplished in just five years.

I am always stopped on the street to hear from people about how “they” got the medical school done or how “this” particular politician fixed higher education in Nevada. As if they wanted me to pat them on the back or write them a check. I knew better. I know better. It was Rob.

Rob Lang played a brilliant game of chess with us, and he hated to lose. He did not lose. More importantly, he never needed the credit for his success nor did he seek it. That was his superpower.

As frustrating as it could be at times, he stuck to the facts and his command of logic. And he prevailed. Which means that Nevada was the winner.

People either loved Rob or hated Rob. That’s the Nevada way. You are either on my team or you are against me. My only retort to the haters was two simple questions. “Did Rob ever lie?” The answer was always “no.” The second question was, “So if he did not lie, you just don’t like him?” The answer was always “yes.”

My dear, wonderful Rob, they did not like the truth and they did not like the way you presented the truth, but so what? You prevailed, Nevada is better off, and I know that’s all that mattered to you.

The Lincy Foundation, the Dream Fund and the anonymous donor gave me a lot of freedom to make an impact in Las Vegas. I have said in the past and will say it until I take my last breath: The best gift we gave this community was Rob Lang. Like it or not, like him or not, he was the billion-dollar return on our investment that will continue to flourish for 60 more years.

And if you think for one second that this brilliant, kind and complicated man left us without a plan for our future, then you have underestimated him yet again.

Rest in peace Rob, I give you my promise to carry on for you the way you carried on for Nevada.