From a plot of land to a valley mainstay in just six short decades: a brief, celebratory miscellany!
Back in the Day
What can we say about UNLV in 192 words? Let’s find out!
Before it was UNLV, as everyone knows, it was Nevada Southern University — and if that sounds like a rather pointed reminder to Las Vegans that their school was an appurtenance to the Reno university, check out its original name, back when Maryland Parkway was a dirt road, and classes were being taught in local high schools and churches because the campus had no building: the Southern Regional Division of the University of Nevada, Reno. Can’t you practically feel the north patting the south on the head? But there have been six decades, a couple of name changes, several mascots, dozens of structures, battles over north-south funding disparities, 16 university presidents (15 of them men), a basketball championship, a couple of scandals, and many acre-feet of academic activity since the school convened its first classes in the fall of 1957. No longer the “Tumbleweed Tech” it was derided as in its early years, or even the “commuter campus” it was later derided as, UNLV now solidly anchors the Midtown neighborhood (especially with recent buildings giving the campus more university-like curb appeal), and is a cornerstone of the valley’s educational, cultural, and scientific life.
Hidden(ish) Gems at UNLV
Baepler Xeric Garden
On just 1.5 acres in the center of campus, this desert garden is more than decorative — with its mix of species from arid regions around the globe, it’s a “living laboratory” for biology and landscape architecture students. Artists also use it for installations from time to time. And for the visitor to campus, it’s a space of quiet, meditative beauty. Outside the Barrick Museum of Fine Art, unlv.edu/barrickmuseum/garden
Maurine Jackson Smith Pipe Organ
Next time the door to the university’s Doc Rando Recital Hall is open, pop in for a look at a musical marvel: a pipe organ of some 3,000 pipes organized in 53 clusters — 10,000 handmade pieces altogether. (It took four years to build, paid for by a $500,000 donation.) It debuted in 2004. With its gleaming pipework rising some 40 feet, it really is a pipe dream. unlv.edu
Twenty grand. That’s what it cost to move a house across the city back in 1983. And what a house: Built in 1933 on Sixth Street, the Tudor home was described then as the most modern in Nevada — it had a glass-enclosed shower! And it was owned by two major local figures: lawyer Harley Harmon (namesake of the street) and gamer Kell Houssels. Saved by preservationists, it was sited at UNLV, meaning the campus’ oldest building has only been there for 34 years. unlv.edu/maps/hou
Nine Wildly Random Factoids About UNLV
$1: What artist Mike Miller charged UNLV for the Hey Reb design in 1982
29: Students in UNLV’s first graduating class
Founder of Weight Watchers: Who UNLV’s Jean Nidetch Women’s Center is named for
The Pioneer Wall: All that’s left of Maude Frazier Hall, UNLV’s first building
Honorary doctorates: Bob Hope (1970), Jimmy Kimmel (2013), Diana Ross (1984), Wayne Newton (1980), CSI creator Anthony Zuiker (2003), Frank Sinatra (1976)
“Cliched,” “reminiscent of authoritarian spectacle”: One reason why artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen didn’t aim UNLV’s Flashlight sculpture upward
Sand-Burners, A-Bombs, Nuggets: Suggested alternatives to Rebels as UNLV mascot
Furniture: What was given to UNLV’s first building by mobster/philanthropist Moe Dalitz
A Blackberry: Most incongruous item in UNLV time capsule, to be opened in 2058