Short list for temporary UNLV president contains wealth of experience

A retired Boyd Gaming Corp. president turned academic officer, a former university president or a higher education provost and one-time law school dean.

Who will be appointed as the temporary president at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas?

Those higher education officials say are on the short list include Don Snyder, executive dean for strategic development for the UNLV stadium project, Carol Harter, executive director of UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute, and John White, executive vice president and provost at UNLV.

Two of the three said they would take the job.

“I would do it enthusiastically, but I’m not going to campaign for it,” Snyder said Friday. I would not be asking people to advocate on my behalf and won’t create a campaign. This is not political office.”

The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents during a special Friday meeting could appoint an acting or interim president. Kevin Page, chairman of the Board of Regents, and Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, were at UNLV Thursday and Friday and will be on campus again Wednesday to gather input from students, faculty and staff on what kind of leader they want.

A letter from eight faculty members was sent to higher education officials early last month claiming that women and minorities are overlooked and underpromoted at UNLV. The authors of the letter also expressed support for appointing Harter, who was UNLV president from 1995 to 2006, to serve as temporary president. This past week, Beverly Rogers, wife of former Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Jim Rogers, was on KSNV-TV, Channel 3 lobbying for Harter. Jim Rogers owns the station.

Harter, who was traveling on Friday and could only speak briefly, said she would accept the job only for a short period of time until a permanent president could be hired. She said she’s been contacted by system higher education officials and was asked permission for them to discuss her as a candidate in public meetings.

She hopes the university will conduct a national search immediately and locate a permanent leader by the end of summer or early fall.

That would allow the university to have a permanent president in place to prepare for the beginning of the 2015 legislative session, she said.

“It’s best for the university to get a new president as quickly as they can,” said Harter, who is UNLV’s longest-serving president. “An interim (position) is one to two years, and the person may not have the level of credibility to go into the Legislature.”

There’s been an aggressive effort to lobby for Harter, said Snyder, who was approached by system higher education officials soon after Neal Smatresk announced his departure from UNLV to become president at the University of North Texas early next month.

Snyder said he is confident the chancellor and the regents have made selecting the best candidate a priority and that “they don’t need active campaigning to influence that decision one way or another.”

He said he would be pleased to serve in a temporary capacity and continue the various initiatives that Smatresk is leaving behind. He would be willing to serve for nine months, 15 months or even three years.

An acting president is not eligible for the permanent position. An interim president, who is able to serve from one to three years, may be considered by the board for the permanent position.

“We can’t afford to lose momentum,” he said. “My passion is to help the university keep things moving. I have a business perspective and these are business initiatives that are very important for the university to focus on.”

Snyder is leading the UNLV stadium project in partnership with the hotel-casino industry, which he was part of as president for Boyd Gaming from 1997 to 2005. He also was previously president and CEO of the Fremont Street Experience.

If tapped for the temporary president’s position, he said the project would remain in good hands now that a consultant, which will serve as project manager, has been hired. Snyder said he would likely continue to be involved in the project.

Snyder also was involved in the development of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. He also served as dean of UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration.

White didn’t respond to a request for an interview. University personnel said he was in meetings all day Friday. White became the second dean of UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law in 2007. In 2012, he was named executive vice president and provost.

When asked who would replace White if he was tapped for the temporary presidency, Megan Downs, spokeswoman for UNLV, said, “Until the Board of Regents makes a final decision on who will be acting or interim president on Friday, there will be no determinations on the provost’s position.”

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at 702-383-0440, or