Late UNLV economist to be inducted into state's Business Hall of Fame

With the latest class of four inductees to the Nevada Business Hall of Fame, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Business is taking the opportunity to honor one of its own.

Keith Schwer, the economist who headed the school's Center for Business and Economic Research for 23 years, will enter the hall on an honorary basis. He died Dec. 3, several months past the regular deadline for nominations.

"He was really, in some ways, the face of the Nevada economy to the outside world," business school Dean Paul Jarley said.

In his position, Schwer was often the source of first choice for people seeking independent insights into the local economy. He continued to field calls at home late into last year, even after worsening cancer of the esophagus kept him away from his campus office.

The three other inductees to the hall, gaming magnates John Ascuaga and Sam Boyd and prominent water official Pat Mulroy, cover a broad expanse both geographically and in experience.

In selecting Ascuaga, the business school's executive advisory board that votes on the nominees conferred rare recognition on someone from Northern Nevada.

"In the past, we have tried to achieve some regional diversity," Jarley said.

Yet only one other of the inductees, now numbering 32 since the hall was launched in 2002, achieved business prominence outside Las Vegas.

Ascuaga, born in Idaho in 1925, bought the Nugget casino in Sparks in 1960 after working there as general manager and built it into the Reno area's most prominent resort. Over the years, he added a pair of 29-story towers containing 1,658 rooms, along with restaurants and meeting space.

According to Nugget spokesman Mike Traum, Ascuaga, 85, remains president and makes the two-hour round trip drive from his ranch in Jacks Valley almost every day. Two of his four children have moved into top management positions.

Sam Boyd's selection might seem obvious because of his longtime presence in the industry and his role in developing locals casinos and launching the ventures that led to the creation of Boyd Gaming Corp. But it was still something of an oddity. Son Bill Boyd, who succeeded him as the head of the Boyd interests, reached the hall five years ago.

"It was an oversight not to put Sam Boyd in then, and we decided to right the injustice," Jarley said.

Mulroy, 56, has been the Southern Nevada Water Authority's general manager since its inception in 1991. She has wielded a large influence over the economy as the water authority's leader, working out agreements with other agencies, overseeing $2.5 billion in infrastructure spending, pushing conservation programs and dealing with drops so that the taps still flow and the fountains still dance in front of Bellagio.

The population has more than doubled during her tenure, and there have been spells of drought.

"I guess the reason I was selected is because we have worked closely with the business community on water resource issues," she said. "Water, in this desert town, is the one fundamental underpinning business."

The inductees will formally join the hall at a recognition banquet Feb. 11.

Contact reporter Tim O'Reiley at or 702-387-5290.


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