College of Liberal Arts Celebrates First Endowed Chair

woman speaking into microphone, making remarks at an event

Susan Johnson

Oct. 30, 2019

The UNLV College of Liberal Arts officially welcomed its first endowed chair, Susan Johnson, during an Oct. 19 reception at the Westgate Las Vegas Hotel. A renowned North American West scholar, Johnson is the Harry Reid Endowed Chair for the History of the Intermountain West. The position is expected to elevate the college’s department of history to the national leader in the study of the Intermountain West region. She joined UNLV this fall.

“We hope this will be the first of many endowed positions in our college. This endowment would not have been possible without the advocacy and support of former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid. We are grateful to him, in every way, and all the donors for making this endowed chair possible,” said Dean Jennifer Keene during the event.

The reception was held in conjunction with the Western History Association conference, hosted by UNLV’s history department. Attendees included NSHE Regents Sam Lieberman and Laura Perkins, historians from across the region, select UNLV administrators, faculty, staff, and donors who helped fund the endowed chair position. Donors included Barrick Gold Corp., The Huntsman Foundation, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, John D. Rockefeller IV, Lorenzo and Teresa Fertitta, Frank and Jill Fertitta, and Fatih Ozmen.

UNLV Acting President Marta Meana said the first endowed full professorship in the college aligns well with UNLV’s recent designation as an R1 university and overall Top Tier goals. “We are in a class that demands and requires us to maintain a level of excellence and scholarship that this endowed chair will exemplify,” she said.

Meana also praised Sen. Reid for his distinguished service to Nevada and the nation and longtime support of UNLV, along with generous community partners who made the endowed chair possible. “With these private partnerships, we’re able to continually fund research initiatives, provide a high-quality education, and earn recognition nationally for the study of history, particularly western history."

Johnson said she’s excited to serve in the newly created position. “It’s been the greatest honor of my life to join the UNLV faculty and the greatest joy to move to the center of a region I so love, to a diverse city with a tradition of labor union strength and a state where environmental protection matters,” she said.

Johnson joined UNLV from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her scholarship focuses on the study of gender, race, ethnicity, and indigeneity. She is the author of the book, Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush, which won the Bancroft Prize for distinguished work in American history in 2001. A second book is headed to press, and a third is in progress.

The Harry Reid Endowed Chair was initially funded in 2017 by a $1 million gift from the late Jon Huntsman Sr. to honor former Sen. Reid, his interest in history, and distinguished life of public service. UNLV secured an additional $1.2 million in gifts and pledges from multiple sources to fund the position.

Click here to view a photo gallery from the event.