’95 BS Finance and Accounting
Lee Business School Alumnus of the Year
Rick Arpin has always been a numbers guy. Even as a kid growing up in Las Vegas, he’d grab the sports section of the newspaper and fixate on box scores, engaging in the kind of deep statistical dives that are now commonplace in an industry that’s ruled by analytics.
Arpin figured he’d parlay his numbers-crunching acumen into a career in sports broadcasting or journalism. But as he came of age in the 1980s — a time when the economy was flourishing and sharp-dressed, briefcase-toting, fortune-seeking yuppies set forth on a modern-day Gold Rush — Arpin decided to forge a different career path.
“I grew up during the ‘boom’ of the 1980s and saw business idolized in popular culture, like the TV show Family Ties and the movie Wall Street,” Arpin says. “That’s when I realized my love of math could serve me well in the business field.”
So after graduating as valedictorian from Chaparral High School, Arpin set about pursuing his business degree. Like many natives, he opted to leave Las Vegas for college, enrolling at Bryant College in Rhode Island.
But after returning home during his sophomore year, Arpin met Len Zane, then the dean of UNLV’s Honors College. That’s when the light bulb went off.
“I realized right away I could get an amazing education at UNLV,” Arpin says. “That belief in the strength of my education never changed throughout my time at the Lee Business School. With amazing professors like Dr. Tommy Moores, Dr. Paulette Tandy, and Dr. Michael Sullivan, I developed so many skills that I’ve gone on to apply throughout my career.”
About that career: Since earning his accounting and finance degrees at UNLV, Arpin has spent nearly three decades lending his finance and operations expertise to the gaming, hospitality, entertainment, and public accounting industries.
He has worked as an executive for Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International. After several years in more traditional finance roles at MGM, Arpin led the company’s sports and entertainment team, which included assisting in the development and operation of T-Mobile Arena — home to the 2022-23 NHL Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights.
These days, Arpin is managing partner at the Las Vegas-based office of KPMG, one of the world’s foremost accounting, tax, and consulting firms.
As if his professional schedule doesn’t keep him busy enough, Arpin also volunteers his time to multiple community organizations. He currently serves on the boards of Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada and Goodwill of Southern Nevada, and is a past board member of the UNLV Alumni Association.
Additionally, Arpin has served as an advisor to the Lee Business School’s accounting department, mentored business students, and led the creation of the Accounting Alumni Faculty Fellow.
That’s right: The man who couldn’t wait to flee Las Vegas after high school not only returned to earn his college degree from UNLV, but he’s spent his entire career in Southern Nevada while remaining committed to his alma mater and the greater community.
“Not long after starting at UNLV, I kind of kicked myself for looking past my hometown school during high school,” Arpin says. “I also quickly realized what so many of us know now: just how special Las Vegas is.”
What was it about numbers and the world of finance that appealed to you?
I declared a major in finance when I got to UNLV, and as part of that I took the introductory accounting classes. I absolutely fell in love with how organized the accounting part of business was. It appealed to the part of my brain that is very analytical.
What I learned later was the combination of finance and accounting allowed me to also use my creative side. Working on complex projects, analyzing different strategies or negotiating business deals — these activities all require a foundation of facts and information layered with creative analysis and generating new and unique solutions.
We get all of that in both the gaming and hospitality industry, as well as in public accounting — whether it’s in new development, mergers and acquisitions, or a variety of projects to enhance a company’s day-to-day business operations.
Looking back on your time at UNLV, what were some of the most impactful moments — be it classes, professors, or experiences?
Getting challenged and supported — in equal amounts — by my professors left an imprint and solidified the skills that are the foundation for everything I’ve done. Going through the recruiting process for my first job in public accounting and having my hard work validated was meaningful.
Finally, the interactions with my fellow students and with professionals in our student organizations taught me how important the interpersonal aspects of business are — despite the common misconception of accountants working alone in the corner.
UNLV students and alumni are encouraged to embrace their “Rebel spirit” — to be daring, take chances and resist convention. Describe a moment when your “Rebel spirit” was on full display.
It wasn’t easy getting T-Mobile Arena built and open. Looking back, the construction might have been the easiest part. But it took a decade of work and a variety of people and teams to conceive of the project, convince the stakeholders, keep momentum, and get a financial arrangement in place.
My background was not sports and entertainment, but I learned so much from the team we had internally and the partners with whom we worked. I could have “stayed in my lane” in accounting. But I was passionate about the need for a new arena, and I’m so glad that I stuck with it and was able to work for a company that shared the same “Rebel spirit.”
Throughout your career you have carved out time to support your community through various volunteer endeavors. What spurred this desire to give back?
My service actually started with UNLV as a member of the Alumni Association’s board. It was an obvious way to match something I am passionate about with my desire to give back.
In the accounting profession, there is a strong “pay-it-forward” culture, so I’ve always strived to be of service to others. That service can come in many forms — developing staff or other colleagues, helping college students through the recruiting process, or volunteering time or money for charitable causes.
My message to today’s students is to consider helping others without concern or desire for reciprocity. When I’ve done that, doing the “right thing” just seems to happen. And the feeling I get from helping others has always been greater than any reward, compensation or recognition I have received in return.