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Make a name for yourself at UNLV

It’s not cheap to get your name on a building, institute, center or program at UNLV (or any other university); nor should it be.

University presidents and fundraisers are always looking to sell the names of buildings and such. They’re called “naming opportunities,” but the opportunities carry a price tag.

Google “naming opportunities” for a particular school, and you can see the current sale prices. Michigan State University Law School lists the costs of naming opportunities, such as a seat in moot court for $10,000 to an endowed deanship for $3 million.

The fourth floor of the law school can be named after you or your loved one for $1 million.

At UNLV, the libraries will sell a branch library name for $2 million, while a study table with chairs can carry a name for $750. Over at Greenspun College for Urban Affairs, prices aren’t listed, just opportunities.

This isn’t new. The William F. Harrah School of Hotel Administration got its name with a $5 million donation from his widow in the late 1980s, although the school began in 1967.

The William S. Boyd Law School opened in 1998, carrying the name of the gaming executive and lawyer after his $5 million donation.

The most recent large naming opportunity is a $10 million pledge that renames the Black Mountain Institute.

It’s now the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute. But most folks will continue to call it BMI.

The institute is an international center for creative writers and scholars dedicated to advancing literary and cross-cultural dialogue. BMI offers fellowships and public reading programs and other programs for writers and poets.

The $10 million donation by Jim and Beverly Rogers last month didn’t get much attention. Yet it will be spent on programs that should bring international attention to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Harter, the former UNLV president who founded BMI in 2006, had a list of very specific proposals for using that money over the next 15 years.

One will be a biennial literary prize of $50,000 for fiction. To put that in perspective, the National Book Award prize is $10,000, so this should be an attention grabber in the world of fiction.

Another biggie is the resurrection of the City of Asylum program, which brought in three writers who had been persecuted and gave them sanctuary at UNLV before running out of money three years ago. With the Rogers money, a writer from Syria and another from Afghanistan could be funded for a revived City of Asylum, Harter said.

“Every other program is going to be expanded and enriched,” Harter said. “We’ll start a library of first editions.”

BMI began with four employees, including Harter as executive director, and now has an annual budget of about $1 million. The Rogers endowment allows the institute to grow and add to its reputation. The Beverly Rogers Library/Reading Room will be added.

From the start of Harter’s 11-year-presidency, she focused on academics rather than sports, which made her some enemies. As I wrote in an earlier column, Jim Rogers, then chancellor, forced Harter out in 2006 but has thrown his support behind her to become the interim president while officials search for a permanent president after Neal Smatresk departs for the University of North Texas.

Television mogul Jim Rogers admitted his commitment to BMI is based on his wife’s volunteerism there and her close friendship with Harter.

“I think BMI will be her (Harter’s) legacy,” he said. “Beverly spends 60 hours a week working on that. It’s the love of her life.”

The outspoken Rogers said Smatresk “made a terrible mistake” when he sold the business school name to Doris and Ted Lee and their family for $15 million in 2011.

“That was a disaster,” Rogers said, contending the name should have cost far more because it’s the largest college at UNLV.

At the time of the Lee family’s donation, the $15 million was described as among the largest individual donations in UNLV’s history. But Rogers thought it drove down the price of other naming opportunities at UNLV.

Rogers could have had his wife’s name attached to BMI for $8 million, but he decided that was too cheap. He bumped it up to $10 million and may increase it to $25 million, depending on the institute’s needs.

Me, I’m more in the $100 brick category. But there is something positive about having your name on something you are proud to publicly support, whether a medical center, a performing arts center or a university.

I hope the naming opportunities don’t stretch too far.

The Jane Ann Morrison Memorial Toilet Seat at the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism just doesn’t sound dignified.

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

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