Regents name Snyder acting president of UNLV

Don Snyder will take the helm at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as acting president beginning Feb. 1.

The state’s Board of Regents, after a lengthy discussion, appointed him to the position during a special meeting at UNLV on Friday.

His new base salary will be $300,000 annually, up from his current salary of $190,000.

“I’m humbled by your decision,” he told the regents. “I will never let you down.”

Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, made the recommendation to the regents. The recommendation was decided in consultation with Kevin Page, chairman of the Board of Regents.

An acting president serves for a short period of time and is not eligible to apply for the permanent position. The appointment of an acting president requires at least seven votes from the 13-member board.

Eleven board members voted in favor of Snyder’s appointment. Regents Ron Knecht and Allison Stephens abstained from the vote.

Officials plan to begin a national search for the permanent position immediately. Contracts with firms to conduct national searches can cost anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000, officials have said in the past.

Others on the short list for the temporary position included Carol Harter, 72, executive director of UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute, and John White, 46, executive vice president and provost at UNLV.

Neal Smatresk’s resignation as president at UNLV is effective Feb. 2. He will become the president at the University of North Texas.

Many of those who spoke during public comment Friday expressed support for Snyder, but at least one was not happy with the recommendation.

“I feel sick to my stomach about the recommendation,” said Beverly Rogers, who had lobbied for Harter. Rogers is the wife of Jim Rogers, a former chancellor for the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Snyder said she obviously had someone else in mind, but he will now work to heal that relationship.

Snyder will continue to lead the UNLV stadium project in partnership with the hotel-casino industry, which he was a part of as president for Boyd Gaming from 1997 to 2005.

He also was president and CEO of the Fremont Street Experience.

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

Klaich, in a memo he sent to the regents on Thursday, said he did not recommend White for the acting president’s position because that would make him ineligible to apply for the permanent position.

Stephens felt the process was too rushed to make a decision. The Regents received Klaich’s memo with information gathered during the meetings that were held to receive input on what kind of leader would be best for UNLV on Thursday, less than 24 hours before the vote.

She also questioned whether White had been asked if he was interested in the interim position since he’s already leading the university as the officer in charge and knows the ins-and-outs of running the institution. An interim president could eventually hold the permanent position.

But a vast majority of the campus community and local stakeholders were in favor of a national search. An interim president is appointed if there are no immediate plans to launch a search.

The university’s leadership has gone from Smatresk to White, and will now go to Snyder, and from him it will go to the permanent president, Stephens said.

“We are taking the university through changes that are unnecessary,” she said after the meeting. “Snyder is perfectly capable, but (White) is already in that position.”

Regent Cedric Crear agreed with Stephens on the additional transitions.

Regent Robert Blakely said the appointment of the acting president was a difficult decision to make.

“Provost White is a wonderful man,” he said. “In my opinion, he was Smatresk’s option to replace him. (White) is already our officer in charge.”

But he added he would vote for Snyder because he was best suited for the acting position.

Regent Michael Wixom endorsed Klaich’s recommendation.

“We really couldn’t go wrong today,” he said.

UNLV’s Faculty Senate Chairman Paul Werth said he hopes to have a good relationship with Snyder. The senate in the next two weeks will work on nominations for the five faculty members who will be advisory members to the Regents’ President Search Committee, which will be composed of six Regents.

Other constituents such as administrators, classified employees and students also get to serve as advisory members to the committee

“I think we are all enthusiastic about the presidential search,” Werth said. “If it works out well, it will justify the investment and energy.”

Many regents said if White chose to apply, he would be a strong candidate.

Contact reporter Yesenia Amaro at or 702-383-0440.

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