'91 BS Business Administration
Fred C. Albrecht Outstanding Alumnus of the Year
Humble as he is, Matthew Engle would never suggest he loves UNLV more than his fellow alumni. But anyone who knows Engle would confirm this about the 2022 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year without hesitation:
Nobody is more devoted to UNLV or waves the Rebel flag with more enthusiasm.
You could point to any number of things to back up this assertion. There’s his seven-year journey as a part-time student (which culminated with the business administration degree he earned in 1991). His lifetime Alumni Association membership. His attendance at countless UNLV sporting events. His ongoing support as a Rebel Athletic Fund member. And his involvement as a member of the College of Sciences advisory board.
Heck, even Engle’s bloodlines have traces of UNLV DNA, as his two daughters (Madison and Tabitha) are graduates of the university’s Honors College and were involved in student organizations and worked as Rebel Recruiters.
Yet if one were to pinpoint a single contribution that underscores Engle’s unyielding allegiance to his alma mater, it would have to be his service on the UNLV Alumni Association board of directors — particular his stint as board president from 2010-12. The reason: Engle proved to be a galvanizing force during a time when relations both within the board and between the board and the broader university community were strained.
“With many boards, there can sometimes be division and differences of opinion on how an organization should move forward. That’s the situation we were facing leading up to the election of officers in 2010,” recalls Engle, who first joined the board in 2006. “At that time, the board was looking for a leader who could repair relationships between fellow members and UNLV leadership. I was nominated to be the person everyone could get behind to begin repairing those critical relationships.”
Upon his election as president, Engle not only went to work mending fences and creating a more productive environment, but under his leadership the Alumni Association boosted fundraising, secured important sponsorship deals, and expanded alumni events and programs. One such initiative Engle launched was the Rebel Business Network, which aims to connect UNLV alumni business owners with the university under one fundamental tenet: Rebels Helping Rebels.
The success of the Rebel Business Network, coupled with various other efforts that bolstered alumni relations and engagement, led to Engle being honored with the Alumni Association’s 2015 Achievement in Service Award.
“I live my life staying true to three core principles: be grateful, give back and be yourself,” says Engle, who continues to serve the Alumni Association as a lifetime member of the ad hoc committee. “The give back piece is a big part of who I am; it’s about helping others and participating in efforts that you love. And I love UNLV. It’s been such a huge part of my life. So whatever I can do to support or uplift the school, I always will.”
When did you know for sure that you made the right choice to become a Rebel?
UNLV has had a special place in my heart since I began exploring college opportunities while finishing up at Western High School. At that time in my life, the number one goal was to earn a college degree that would lead to career opportunities. And I viewed my hometown university as the best option for achieving that goal.
My mother passed away from an illness when I was 15, and shortly after I graduated high school and started at UNLV, my father moved to California. I didn’t want to go with him because Las Vegas was home to me. My siblings — I’m the fourth of five children — felt the same way and stayed here, too.
So to cover my tuition and living expenses, I took a job with a record shop at a local mall and later did an internship through UNLV with Northwestern Mutual Life insurance company, and I attended classes that could fit around my work schedule. It took a long time and wasn’t easy, but I got through it and was immensely proud to graduate as a Rebel.
Why did you become involved with the UNLV Alumni Association?
When I finally got through my seven-year journey, I was committed to staying connected with UNLV. The first option I was aware of was to join the Alumni Association, which allowed me to stay informed with UNLV and engage with fellow alumni. Eventually, I became a lifetime member.
As I built more relationships with UNLV staff and alumni, I was drawn to get involved even more, and in 2006, I was elected as a board member.
Besides my love for UNLV, I knew that by remaining connected with the school I would be setting a positive example to my children about the importance of a college education. Then, as fate would have it, both my daughters graduated from the Honors College and both worked in the office of admissions while they were students.
Looking back on your tenure as president of the Alumni Association’s board, what brings you the most pride?
One of the first big changes during my tenure as president was to add the alumni board presidents from all of UNLV’s individual colleges as members of our board of directors. In doing so, we expanded our board overnight, which brought new energy and ideas.
I like to look back on my time as president as a time when bridges were built between the Alumni Association and the board members, our alumni, UNLV leadership and the Southern Nevada community at-large. Some of these bridges included hosting Alumni Association-sponsored events, such as basketball tailgates and our Dinner with a Rebel night; participating in community outreach events like the Summerlin Fourth of July parade; and creating the Rebel Business Network, which helped UNLV alumni and college deans to network with the business community with an emphasis on commerce and job opportunities.
How did your experiences as a Rebel — both in and out of the classroom — help you “make it happen” in your career?
When I think of a Rebel, I think of pushing boundaries, taking risks, and speaking up when warranted. And many of my UNLV professors pushed me to think differently and take risks. Those were lessons I never forgot, even when I was well into my career.
Here’s a story that amplifies that point: During and shortly after college, I had envisioned myself climbing the proverbial corporate leader, thinking that fulfillment would come when I reached the top. But more than a decade ago, I made the switch from “steady paycheck” management positions to an employed insurance professional working mostly on commission only. Then recently, I made another change, this time going from employed professional to independent contractor. I simply decided it was time to earn equity in my own business efforts.
I consider these changes as “Taking the Road Less Traveled,” since most have occurred later in life. But I am thankful I made these decisions, as they allowed me to challenge myself to achieve greater heights personally and professionally. Had I not possessed that “Rebel Spirit,” I may never have risked shifting gears and taking a chance on myself.