Rogers backing Harter for interim chief at UNLV

In an ironic reversal, former Chancellor Jim Rogers, who orchestrated the ouster of UNLV President Carol Harter in 2006, is now supporting her to become the interim UNLV president after Neal Smatresk trots back to Texas.

The mercurial Rogers told me he is supporting Harter over the other outstanding contender, Don Snyder, who is heading the effort to build a campus stadium for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Both Harter and Snyder told me they would be interested in the interim job, while officials search for a permanent president, but not the permanent presidency.

For the interim president, Rogers said: “You have got to have someone who is tough as nails and cannot be pushed around, and Carol can’t be pushed around. She’s tough, she’s smart, she loves that school.”

Yet in 2006, Rogers was the one who pushed her out of the presidency, a job she had held for 11 years, contending she was a micro-manager who had alienated some donors.

Why the turnaround?

Two words: Beverly Rogers.

“I started volunteering with her to help raise some funds for the Black Mountain Institute a couple of years ago, to raise the cultural temperature level in Las Vegas, and we’ve become good friends, like sisters even,” Beverly Rogers said.

She convinced her wealthy husband to donate $10 million to the institute, which is now renamed the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute as a result of the recent donation. Jim Rogers said he is willing to give up to a total of $25 million to the institute, depending on its needs.

Harter founded the institute in 2006 as a center for creative writers and scholars and had decided to retire in June as executive director before Smatresk’s unexpected decision to resign and take the job as president of the University of North Texas, which is near family and larger than UNLV.

Now he’s Harter’s advocate for the job. “I’m rooting for her, but I have not actively called anyone yet.”

Harter wouldn’t have any learning curve.

But she also has certain restrictions. “As the longest serving president of UNLV in its history, you can imagine that I have deep ties to the place and to its having good governance, so if asked formally to consider serving in that capacity, I would consider it,” she wrote in an email. “I believe a national search must be done (and should be started very soon) and should bring us a ‘permanent’ president by the start of the academic year. Those conditions would need to be met by the chancellor and by the Board of Regents before I would serve.”

Initially, Rogers, who was out of town, said after Harter, “I can’t think of anyone who is in second place.” Told that Snyder was a contender, Rogers softened that, saying he was “a big supporter of Don Snyder, he’s a great leader of everything there is.”

Harter is his choice, however. “She has all the skill sets, she knows that university upside down and backwards.”

Snyder and Harter worked together on the $537 million capital campaign that was completed during the four years of the Smatresk administration.

Snyder said it gracefully and accurately about Harter and himself, “I think that the university can’t lose.”

Harter is remembered for being pushed out by Rogers, but under her administration, a law school was started, along with a school of architecture and a dental school. Seventeen buildings were constructed. And the student population grew from 19,000 to 28,000, which is what it remains today.

Snyder’s accomplishments throughout the community are legendary, including 27 years of mostly volunteer work at UNLV. Primary fundraiser for The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, dean of the hotel administration college for three years, former president of Boyd Gaming, head of the Fremont Street Experience. Bank founder. The list of nonprofits he has aided is too long for this column.

The regents and chancellor who will decide are faced with “Sophie’s Choice.” Harter and Snyder both have talents that can make a difference for UNLV, even on a temporary basis of likely less than a year.

Rogers has made his choice. But he doesn’t have a vote. What he does have is great wealth and a television station to speak his mind.

I pity the university system officials who buck his wishes, especially since Harter is a logical choice.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at 702-383-0275.