UNLV will hire 10 new professors, rename its business college, fund a lecture series and provide scholarships as high as $15,000, and it won't cost the taxpayers a dime, thanks to one of the largest donations in the university's history.
"This gift has the capacity and capability of almost instantly changing the national reputation of this university," UNLV President Neal Smatresk said Thursday.
Ted Lee, 78, and his wife, Doris Lee, 92, local real estate developers and casino owners, donated $15 million to the university. Its purpose is to bolster UNLV's business college, which is being renamed the Lee Business School.
"The Lee Business School is the culmination of everything we've wanted to do," Ted Lee said. The couple, who came to Las Vegas in 1971, has a history of philanthropic donations, including creating the first endowed professorship at UNLV's Boyd School of Law in 2001.
Of the $15 million announced Thursday, $10 million will be used to create an endowment to fund 10 new business professorships, $2.5 million will be used to create an endowment to fund scholarships, $750,000 will be used for a lecture series, another $750,000 for a visiting professor program, and roughly $1 million will cover expenses.
"We made this gift as a beginning," Ted Lee said. "The possibilities for UNLV are immense."
He said his father, who came to the United States in 1901 with no money, taught him that education was the most important investment he could make.
"No one can steal if from you, and you can't lose it," he said.
Ted Lee wound up graduating from Harvard University and earning advanced degrees from the University of California, Berkley.
The Lees, both children of Chinese immigrants, also have made gifts to Harvard University and others.
They founded Urban Land of Nevada and own and operate the Eureka Casino in Las Vegas and the Eureka Casino Hotel in Mesquite.
Their son, Greg Lee, sits on the board of the UNLV Foundation, the university's fundraising arm.
"It's not every day that a son gets an opportunity to tell his parents how proud he is of them," Greg Lee said in announcing the gift.
He described his parents as optimists who want to improve their community's university.
"Their gift is really a gift to this community, this city," he said.
Bill Boldt, UNLV's vice president for advancement, said the gift will make UNLV's business school better. He thanked the Lees for that.
"They see the potential at UNLV," he said. "This is their community. This is their university. They want to make a difference."
Paul Jarley, dean of the business school, said hiring 10 endowed professors, creating the speaker series and the scholarships will all enhance the university's reputation. In turn, that will make it easier to attract top-tier students.
Higher education Chancellor Dan Klaich sounded a similar message.
"This institution should be the beating heart of this state and this city," he said of UNLV.
Contact reporter Richard Lake at email@example.com or 702-383-0307.