UNLV’s most distinguished research award — the Harry Reid Silver State Research Award — was created in 2001 with two goals in mind: honoring the U.S. senator who has been an outstanding supporter of UNLV, and recognizing faculty who have performed research that is both highly regarded and responsive to the needs of the community and state. The 2004 recipient of this honor, Hal Rothman, represents the exceptional research and scholarship being performed at UNLV.
Hal Rothman—Professor and Chair, Department of History
Not only is Las Vegas one of the world’s premier resort destinations but, for the last two decades, it has also been part of the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country. The town’s unique history and continuing explosive growth make it an extremely interesting location for social historians to study and observe, according to UNLV history professor Hal Rothman, who is also department chair, author, editor, and resident expert on the history and culture of Las Vegas.
Rothman is perhaps the city’s most quoted source on the people, infrastructure, and politics of what Time Magazine recently called the “new American city.” To date, Rothman has authored several books about tourism and related culture, including Neon Metropolis: How Las Vegas Started the Twenty-First Century as well as Devil’s Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth Century West, which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and also won the Spur Award for Best Contemporary Nonfiction from the Western Writers of America. He is also co-editor of a recent collection of essays entitled The Grit Beneath the Glitter: Tales from the Real Las Vegas, which offers additional insights and original analysis of the Southern Nevada experience.
While Rothman has compiled an impressive record of scholarly works, his writings are well received by general audiences; three of his books on western environmental and tourism history are being reissued in paperback. His public appeal can be traced to a populist orientation.
“I don’t believe you write history for your fellow scholars,” Rothman says. “You write it for people so they will know, understand, and care about the issues affecting their lives.”
In addition to his many public talks, Rothman has written for several nationally syndicated outlets, has consulted on major television network programs, and has been featured on National Public Radio, the Arts & Entertainment Network, and, most recently, CNN’s “NewsNight” with Aaron Brown. He is increasingly a favorite of the international media and has narrated feature films in France and Germany.
Prior to coming to Southern Nevada in 1992 to help UNLV build a Ph.D. program in western history, Rothman’s primary areas of research focused on national parks and social/cultural environmentalism. Although his writings about Southern Nevada have garnered the most public attention, Rothman continues to produce important works in other fields and recently completed a book about new urban parks using the Golden Gate National Recreation Area as a model.
Rothman, who was elected to the Nevada Writer’s Hall of Fame in 2004, received his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. He also served a 10-year term as the editor of Environmental History, a leading international journal for scholars, scientists, and historians.
About Senator Harry Reid
The highest-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate and Nevada’s senior senator, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has worked actively through the years to support many of UNLV’s major research projects. He has been instrumental in identifying significant resources to allow faculty to engage in a variety of investigative studies, particularly those related to the efficient use of alternative energy and the management of spent nuclear fuel. His support of the scholarly pursuits of UNLV faculty, especially as they relate to environmental studies, has been substantive. The Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies and the Harry Reid Silver State Research Award have been named to honor his long-standing commitment to the university. Plans are also under way to develop the Harry Reid UNLV Research and Technology Park, expected to begin construction soon.