Thalia Sperry Dondero came to Las Vegas from California in 1942 where she worked with the Basic Magnesium Industries. She married Harvey Dondero, a teacher at Las Vegas High School in 1945. The newlyweds moved to Carson City while he worked for the U.S. Office of Education. The couple returned to Las Vegas in 1948.
The education of children in Las Vegas was an important issue for the Donderos Before her husband passed away, they worked together to improve the quality of education for many years. The mother of five, Dondero first got involved with public education at the Mayfield Grade School. She was active in the school's Parent Teacher Organization and was mentored by Maude Frazier, the superintendent for Las Vegas Schools. It was encouragement from Frazier that later prompted her to see public office. Dondero was the first woman commissioner elected in Clark County, where she served for ten years, acting as chair three times. Dondero made the news when she refused to act as secretary to the male members of the commission. Her service on the Clark County Commission opened doors for other women to serve without facing the same kind of discrimination she originally faced.
Dondero's public service continued in 1996 when she was elected to the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents, where she served until 2008. As a regent, Dondero worked to improve higher education to the state.
Dondero has made numerous important contributions to the Las Vegas community over the last 50 years. Her dedication to public service continues to improve the education system and the overall quality of life in southern Nevada. She was instrumental in expanding state owned recreational areas including Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire. As commissioner, she oversaw the expansion of McCarran International Airport and flood control projects. As chair of the Las Vegas Valley Water District Board, she helped the valley find available and adequate water supplies. Currently she serves on the Summerlin Hospital Board of Trustees and the Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory Council.
In 2007, UNLV President David B. Ashley presented Dondero with an honorary doctor of law degree for her commitment to higher education and distinguished service to the community.