Brown, professor of economics and former director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, died May 6. He joined the Lee Business School in 2010 as professor and the center's director. Several years later he took a position in the department of economics as a full-time professor, teaching courses in public finance and economic development, and doing research in energy economics. He was senior editor of the international academic journal Energy Policy and a University Fellow at Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based think tank that specializes in energy, environmental, and natural resource economics.
Campbell, UNLV’s longest-serving faculty member, died July 27 of complications related to COVID-19. A member of the English department since 1962, she was the first on campus to teach African American and Asian literature. Known for her pioneering work in gaming research, she also championed popular culture as a field worthy of study. Learn more about Campbell in an updated article originally published in 2008.
Espin, a professor emeritus in the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism, died July 24. She had taught at UNLV since 1996 and also was an alum, having earned her master’s degree in communication studies in 1997. She won an award for Outstanding Teaching by Part-time Faculty in 2003. She retired in 2018 but continued to teach on a part-time basis. Before coming to UNLV, Espin was a city editor at the Las Vegas Sun, spent 12 years in resort marketing and in 1996, started her own marketing and PR firm. The native of Charlotte, North Carolina was a court-appointed special advocate with the CASA organization in Clark County Family Court.
Malcolm “Mac” Graham
Graham, one of UNLV’s first faculty members, died Jan. 17. He moved to Las Vegas in 1956 to become one of the first 12 full-time faculty members — and the only math professor — at the Southern Regional Division of the University of Nevada, the school that would become UNLV. Since the Southern Nevada branch had no buildings, he taught in rooms downtown at the Baptist Church and the old Las Vegas High School. The first campus building opened the following year. He retired in 1985 as an emeritus professor of mathematics. Read about Graham and about UNLV’s early years in a 2015 story.
Meacham, emeritus professor of education, died Dec. 7, 2019. A nine-year member of UNLV’s faculty, he previously had served as president of the community college now known as the College of Southern Nevada. Heading CSN from 1983 to 1994, he was the college’s longest-serving and first African America president and oversaw the college during a time of tremendous growth. Read more about Paul Meacham.
Peterson, who was one of the first three faculty members in the School of Music and who started the university’s choral program, died May 27. He retired as an emeritus professor after teaching at UNLV for 36 years. During his time on campus, the Minnesota native took university choral groups to prestigious conventions of both the American Choral Directors Association and the Music Educators National Conference. In addition to his teaching career, the Navy veteran was music director and CEO of the Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society for 52 years.
Pirages, emeritus professor of political science, died Oct. 1. He joined the UNLV faculty in 2007 and taught nine years. During his time on campus he served as graduate coordinator and was instrumental in helping launch the Ph.D. program. A prolific scholar, he was author, coauthor, or editor of 14 books on environmental politics. He also published a number of book chapters and journal articles, and was the recipient of many prestigious grants, fellowships, and awards. He is credited with helping to popularize the concept of international ecopolitics. In 1988 he was elected a lifetime fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Billie Mae Polson
Polson, emerita librarian, died July 16 from complications of dementia. She joined the university, then known as the Southern Regional Division of the University of Nevada in 1959 as one of its first two librarians. She began her tenure supervising cataloging and reference in the one-room library in Maude Frazier Hall. The library soon relocated to Grant Hall. She served as acting head librarian for a two-year period in the early 1960s, and supervised the library's move into the James R. Dickinson Library, the building that now is home to the William S. Boyd School of Law. As director of technical services she was involved in designing the layout of the technical services department in Lied Library, but retired in 1999 before the move into the new facility. Read more about Polson in this retirement story from 1999.
Rubin, a professor of social work, died Nov. 2, 2019. In addition to his academic work, he maintained a private counseling practice for many years. The North Dakota native was an avid reader, scholar, jazz aficionado, and basketball enthusiast. He retired from UNLV in 1998.
Strauss, ’91 Ph.D. English, died April 28 in Roseville, California, from the effects of Agent Orange. The first person to earn a doctorate from UNLV, Strauss wrote his thesis on “In Hope of Heaven: English Recusant Prison Writings of the 16th Century.” A technical writer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for 13 years and a lecturer at UNLV, he served as a captain in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He earned five bronze stars, a national defense service medal, a commendation medal for exceptional meritorious service, and a war office certificate. Among his survivors are his wife, Sandra Colomy Strauss, ’94 BA English and ’97 MA English.
Norma Engberg Thoemmes
Thoemmes, emerita professor of English, died May 16. During her 41 years on the faculty, she was a trailblazer in distance education, television lectures, and online learning at UNLV, helping lay the foundation for today’s remote instruction. She joined UNLV in 1970 and taught Old English, Language and Linguistics, Principles of Modern Grammar, and the Bible as Literature. She directed theses and dissertations for numerous graduate students, many of whom went on to careers in academia, education, politics, business, communications, and the arts. She had an abiding love of tortoises, and raised and rescued a variety of tortoises and turtles. She was one of the founders of the nonprofit Nevada Desert Tortoise Group. She spent her retirement years in Ely.
Vallen, founding dean of the Harrah College of Hospitality, died July 30. He built the nationally recognized college from the ground up, serving as dean from 1967 to 1989. In recognition of his legacy, the college created its signature event, The Vallen Dinner of Distinction, at which industry leaders and alumni are honored each year. In a full-length article first published in 2017 Vallen reminisced about starting the college.
C. Todd White
White, a professor in the department of anthropology, died March 19. He had taught at UNLV since 2016. Some of his courses had been listed among “cool classes at UNLV” in local and state media coverage. Among the classes he taught were Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion; Introduction to Cultural Anthropology; and Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology. His book, Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights, was published in 2009 by the University of Illinois Press. He served as chair of the Homosexual Information Center and editor of Tangents magazine and Tangents Online.