Pushed out by the Board of Regents and Chancellor Thom Reilly, UNLV’s dynamic president, Len Jessup, was a gentleman and a leader at his final meeting with the UNLV Foundation Board last week.
Surrounded by friends, UNLV family members and a board room full of community supporters, donors and activists, Jessup reminded everyone to keep moving forward. While most people in the room were still seething about the way the regents and Reilly forced Jessup to leave his post after only three years, Jessup talked about the need to focus on the job ahead—to make UNLV a top-tier university with a great medical school—both of which are in jeopardy because of a lack of trust between the community and the regents.
Can’t have a great community without a strong university, he reminded the foundation members. And Las Vegas must have a top-grade medical school if it is to get off the bottom of almost every list that ranks the quality of health care across the country.
As a leader, Len took the high road on his way out. It remains to be seen what road the regents will take as they try to clean up the mess they and the chancellor have made. There are millions of good reasons for the regents to get this one right and very little reason to think that they will.
The first thing the community must do is make sure UNLV has solid leadership until a successor can be found, which could take a year or more. The next thing Las Vegas has to do is fix the board of regents and chancellor setup so the next president can’t be run out of town on a whim.
That will take the entire community working together—with or without the regents.