For a group of would-be hotel majors in the mid ’80s, UNLV was a sure bet. Rebel football was big, Tarkanian was king, and a little hotel school was making a big impression on the world.
These scrappy out-of-towners met on campus, became fast friends, and went on to play intramural sports together, pledge Kappa Sig together, and graduate with degrees in Hotel Administration between ’86 and ’89.
This is no ordinary circle of friends.
At a recent reunion hosted by one of the group’s proudest members, Scott Sibella (MGM Grand president and COO), it was a virtual who’s who of the hospitality industry. Guests included industry giants like George Maloof, Scott Menke, and Rob Oseland, just to name a few.
The occasion? A private pre-celebration for buddies Tim and Mike Muir, who will be recognized as the Harrah Hotel College’s Hospitality Industry Leaders of the Year at the Nov. 17 Vallen Dinner of Distinction, to be held at MGM Grand.
After hellos, hugs, and secret handshakes, the group fell into effortless conversation—the mark of a deep camaraderie that comes with shared history. Over the years, the friends talked as often as they could and saw each other whenever possible, but there was a sense that this gathering was special.
Over breakfast at The Mansion at MGM Grand, the men touched on business, family, and sports but soon turned their attention to UNLV. Most of them told a similar story about arriving on campus in the mid ’80s armed with big dreams and a love for all things sports:
“A lot of students came out here because of the exposure of the basketball team,” said New Mexico native Maloof, who had transferred to UNLV to play football but admitted to having a growing infatuation with casinos.
“Football, basketball … sports was a big deal,” New Jersey-born Tim Muir jumped in. “There was so much energy!”
“That was the time UNLV was put on the map,” added Sibella, the only native Las Vegan in the group.
The energy was palpable citywide. Just before the rise of the mega-resort, there was a feeling that everything was about to break loose in Vegas. These guys knew that the city and hotel school were inextricably linked.
“The school had a great hotel management program,” said Jacques D’Rovencourt, who left Hawaii for UNLV. “Going here gave me the opportunity to work at the best hotels in the industry.”
“If you want to be the best and experience the best hospitality in the world,” explained Tim, “then you either need to work in Las Vegas or go to the UNLV hotel school. My brothers and I decided to do both. Hospitality is the DNA of Las Vegas.”
“It was the opportunity to go to a world-class school and get work experience,” added Scott Menke, who came to UNLV from Arizona.
Beyond sports and the hotel school, the gang rallied around their fraternity Kappa Sigma:
“Most of the people from Kappa Sig were all from out of state and hotel majors – all ‘Type A’ people,” said Tim. “At 18, everything was kind of equal. We all had big dreams. We were all hard workers—very, very competitive.”
“Tim was the catalyst, bringing all of us together,” added his brother Mike, who likens Tim’s charisma to a kind of gravitational pull.
Most everyone fell easily into Tim’s orbit — everyone including New Yorker-turned-Rebel Rob Mentnech, who is now the regional director for Best Western International.
“I met Tim the first day,” said Mentnech. “We liked each other right away because we talked funny.”
“Still do,” Menke joked.
Mentnech laughed. “Even though Tim and Mike had pledged the semester before me, I thought, why not just join? I was already doing everything with them anyway. The fraternity was a good way to get plugged in. Greek Week was big on campus. We won every year.”
The guys went on to exchange stories about late nights in the Student Union, studying in Beam Hall, scheduling games around graveyard shifts (Tim ran intramurals), selling homemade posters at Runnin’ Rebels games, and throwing parties. There was even talk about dressing up in tuxedos to sneak into VIP parties after boxing matches. Their collective strategy: go in through the kitchen and no one will ask questions.
These guys were what you call involved. On top of everything else, Tim and Mike—following the lead of their older brother Tom—served in high-ranking positions in UNLV student government. “Just like the hotel school was a leading program on campus,” said Mike, “we felt like it was important for us to be leaders on campus as well.”
Through all of the student group activities, sports, and shenanigans, a rare chemistry was forming—a bond that would carry the group through the multitude of life changes, challenges, and successes that were to come:
“There are lots of friendships here, but a lot of business here too,” explained Sibella. “We always ask each other’s advice.”
“Every time I build something new, I ask these guys for their opinions… their perspectives,” said Menke.
“We learn from each other,” added Maloof. “Knowing how hard they’ve worked motivates you. It keeps you focused.”
As the reunion was coming to a close, and the gang prepared to return to the reality of present life and work, they expressed a deep gratitude for the opportunities their degrees had provided. But it had become clear after nearly two hours of conversation that the relationships were the most valuable takeaway from UNLV:
“It’s a journey,” explained Illinois born Rob Oseland. “You don’t realize everyone is going to have some level of success. You don’t think about the impact the relationships will have.”
“I think we stay friends because we have the same qualities,” added Mentnech. “Friendship is important, honesty … the intangibles.”
“When you develop these kind of relationships in an early part of your life—where you have that sort of unconditional trust — that carries forward,” Mike summed up. “It’s that immediate bond… and confidence… and happiness to be back together with friends.”