Mark Alden, known for always striving to serve students first during his 17 years on the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents, died Thursday morning. He was 74.
He was elected to the Board of Regents District 4 seat, which was called District D when Alden first ran in 1995, and served for the maximum number of terms allowed before leaving the board in 2012.
Before serving as a regent, Alden worked as a forensic accountant, specializing in white-collar crime investigations. Alden also served on the Nevada State Bar Fee Dispute Arbitration Committee and was an auditor for the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
“For him, public service was a commitment, and he gave up a lot of personal time for the board,” former Regent Michael Wixom said Thursday.
Alden gave up his accounting business when he was elected to the Board of Regents. He dedicated himself to serving students at Nevada institutions, chairing several committees and volunteering to assist the board whenever possible, Wixom said.
“He worked diligently for those he represented and wanted nothing more than to see Nevada and Nevadans succeed,” said Gov. Steve Sisolak, a former regent and Clark County commissioner.
Alden always made time to meet and speak with students, and always had their best interests in mind while he served on the board, friends said.
“If there was any kind of debate, he sided with the students,” said Las Vegas Councilman Cedric Crear, a former regent.
Alden also promoted positive relationships among Nevada’s schools, especially the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the University of Nevada, Reno.
“He never wanted the rivalry to become acrimonious. He wanted it to be a good experience of students and good for both schools,” Wixom said.
Alden was born in Portland, Maine, in 1944. He was raised by an aunt and uncle but was on his own from age 17.
“He was really friendly and honest,” Alden’s wife, Tungalag Has-Ochyr, said. “He was a quick decision-maker and a sharp thinker.”
Alden was the first in his family to graduate college, though it took him 10 years because he couldn’t settle on a major. He graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and minors in political science and Nevada history.
Friends and family remember Alden as a man who was serious when he needed to be, but also kind and passionate.
“He was stormy, but sometimes very calm,” Has-Ochyr said. “He could be very happy at one time, like a child, but at another time he could be very easily angry at someone who lied to or cheated him.”
Alden was a strong and willful person, Has-Ochyr said, having survived three bouts of stage-4 cancer.
He was a religious man who attended church every Sunday. It was often the highlight of his week.
“Everywhere he went, he had to see a church,” Has-Ochyr said. “He really loved church and the people around it.”
Has-Ochyr said Alden surprised her by adopting three rescue dogs over the course of their 10-year marriage. “We were a nice, friendly family,” she said.
Alden was named a Distinguished Nevadan by the Board of Regents in 2016 for his service to the board and Nevada students.
Before his death, Alden received the Outstanding Service Award from the University of Nevada Alumni Association, and the Outstanding Alumni Award from UNR; became a Lifetime Member of the UNLV Alumni Association; and received President’s Medals from UNLV, the Desert Research Institute and Nevada State College.
“Mark was a good man,” Crear said. “He didn’t have a hateful bone in his body.”
Alden is survived by his wife and their three dogs.