In Jessup we trust? BOR’s pick for UNLV’s next prez has proven himself a solid fundraiser

Jill Colbert

UNLV is a school desperately in need of good news. Over the past two years its budget has been cut 24 percent, the casualties including 100 faculty positions and 260 staff positions. And Gov. Brian Sandoval has called for an additional 10 percent cut to combat an $880 million state budget shortfall. Given that UNLV’s enrollment has actually climbed during this period, to 29,000 students, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the university’s most pressing issue is money. Lots of it. Fundraising is going to be key. So it must give the Board of Regents some small degree of comfort to know that their choice of hire for UNLV president, Len Jessup, is something of a rock star in that area.

Jessup has risen quickly in a short time. In 2000 he was tapped to head a department within—and later became chair of—the College of Business at Washington State University, also serving as vice president of University Development and CEO of the WSU Foundation. Most noteworthy about his time with the Foundation from 2005-’07 is the dramatic change in fundraising. Jessup helped work on the Campaign for Washington State University: Because the World Needs Big Ideas, a $1 billion comprehensive fundraising effort. Its silent phase began in 2006, and the public phase began in 2010. This year, the university reported that the campaign, which is scheduled to conclude next year, has surpassed the $950 million mark. (To give that amount some perspective, in 2006, WSU raised $54 million. Had it continued at that rate, the total raised by 2014 would have been less than half of what it is.)

His impact was also felt while he was dean of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona, his alma mater. During Jessup’s time there, the college’s budget increased from $48.8 million to $60.6 million, and enrollment increased 12 percent. In addition, Arizona NOW: The Campaign for the University of Arizona, has raised $45 million of its $65 million goal in its first year.

Jessup’s credentials are enough to draw the attention of UNLV’s longest-serving president Carol Harter, now executive director of the university’s Black Mountain Institute (which does plenty of fundraising of its own). She hasn’t met Jessup yet, but Harter says he seems to be “one who is most interested in moving UNLV forward,” adding that she looks forward to talking to him about her own agency’s fundraising efforts.

There’s obviously no quick fix for UNLV’s financial woes, but the hire of Jessup would appear—on the surface at least—to be a step in the right direction.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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