Educator Donald Baepler dies

Donald H. Baepler, secretary-treasurer and acting president of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners, died Monday morning after being diagnosed with lung cancer last year. He was 75.

Baepler, an ornithologist by education, also served as president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s.

"I would describe him as a Renaissance man," medical board Executive Director Tony Clark said. "He knew a lot -- a lot -- about the practice of medicine. And he could talk about the stock market, and politics, and the university system, and education in general. You name it, and Don knew something about it."

Clark said Baepler's passing won't affect the board's investigations into whether to suspend or revoke the licenses of several Las Vegas Valley doctors linked to an outbreak of hepatitis C at endoscopy clinics.

Baepler was named acting president of the board after President Javaid Anwar and Vice President Sohail Anjum recused themselves from their positions because of conflicts.

Gov. Jim Gibbons is responsible for appointing a replacement for Baepler on the nine-member board, Clark said.

"He (Baepler) brought a great sense of integrity and decency to the medical board,'' said Don Havins, chief executive officer of the Clark County Medical Society. "He was quite dedicated.''

Even though he was battling lung cancer, Baepler continued his duties as treasurer of the medical board, Havins said. During the board's last meeting, Baepler listened in from his home phone.

"He sounded good on the phone,'' Havins said. "His voice sounded quite strong.''

Even last week, Baepler tried to answer a Review-Journal question for a story. Eventually, Baepler said he couldn't speak and hung up.

Betts Baepler said her husband kept working right until the end.

"All he would say is, 'If I could just get my throat to stop hurting,' '' she said. "All last week he was making phone calls and meeting with people. He wasn't going to give up.''

Havins said Donald Baepler "smoked like a chimney" and could often be seen smoking during medical board meeting breaks.

Baepler oversaw a period of transformation at UNLV.

As acting president of the school from 1968 to 1969, Baepler persuaded the Board of Regents to change the name of Nevada Southern University to UNLV.

He later assumed the permanent post at the university in 1973, overseeing the creation of the graduate school and the construction of Artemus W. Ham Hall and the Paul McDermott Physical Education Complex.

When he was the university's vice president, Baepler was instrumental in wooing coach Jerry Tarkanian to the school in 1973, according to "UNLV: A History," by UNLV professor Eugene Moehring.

With Tarkanian leading the UNLV basketball team, the Runnin' Rebels would go on to have four Final Four appearances and win one national championship.

Baepler resigned in 1978 to serve as university system chancellor until 1980.

Afterward, he went on to found the Harry Reid Environmental Research Center at UNLV and direct the Barrick Museum of Natural History.

He was a "very smart man -- one of the smartest I've ever met," said Larry Lessly, who had been friends with Baepler since 1976, when Lessly was vice chancellor for legal affairs for the university system.

"He was one of the guys who could accomplish more in an hour at 7:30 in the morning than most people could in an entire day," Lessly said.

Baepler is the second UNLV president to die this year. Donald C. Moyer, president between 1965 and 1968, died in April.

Betts Baepler said an upcoming service for her husband would not be open to the public.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at or 702-383-0440. Contact reporter Annette Wells at or 702-383-0283. Review-Journal writer Brian Haynes contributed to this report.