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Tenacity During Tough Times

Administrative assistant Pirro Dollani recently was named President’s Classified Employee of the Year. Read about what he contributed to UNLV even while facing the challenge of a lifetime.
People  |  Sep 9, 2013  |  By Diane Russell
Pirro Dollani appears in this 2005 photo at Lied Library with the Ismail Kadare book "Coffeehouse Days" he translated for the Rainmaker Editions release. (Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services)

Pirro Dollani

Department of Film

Administrative Assistant IV

Rebel Since: 1997

What you do

I assist the chair in the general operation of the department -- with budgeting, with accounts, with compiling faculty reports for evaluation and promotion. We're a small department, yet last year we produced a feature-length movie. That meant lots of paperwork.

Favorite part of the job

I enjoy helping the students and the professors. I like to help people solve their problems.


I was born in Albania. I have been in the United States 19 years. I came on sabbatical. I spent five months at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My children were teenagers. I decided not to go back home because I wanted them to have the best education.


I speak Albanian and English. I used to speak Italian. Now I start a sentence in Italian and finish it in English or Albanian.

The UNLV/Albania Link

Because I speak Albanian, I have translated nine books that have been published. Eight were translated from English to Albanian.

Also, I have helped several UNLV people with projects involving Albania. I translated a paper for (English professor) Claudia Keelan that she was presenting at a conference in Albania. When film professor Hart Wegner participated in the International Festival of Poetry in Albania, presenting his paper on poetry and later holding a signing for his book, A Fond Farewell to the Word: A Polemic and an Elegy. I translated both the book and the paper, which was published in many journals. I traveled to Albania with (film professor) Clarence Gilyard when he went there to produce the play, The Permanent Collection, by Thomas Gibbons for the Albanian National Theater. I translated the play.

Not so long ago Albania was closed to foreigners

Yes, it has changed. Albanians love Americans. And everyone from here who has gone there wants to go back again.

Degrees from UNLV

A bachelor's degree in English (2002) and a master of education (2005). I also have two degrees from Albania.

I could not do my job without

The help of all the people here -- the faculty, the classified staff, the students. Also, the warmth that I get from everyone from the student workers to the dean.

What People Nominating Him for the Award Had to Say

Francisco Menendez, department chair, wrote: Two years ago Mr. Dollani was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, very hard to beat. The situation was dire. There were no (bone marrow) donors to help him. Our other (administrative assistant) left, leaving us hobbled. As I visited Pirro, hairless and weak, at the hospital, he begged me to have a laptop issued to him so he could work in between endless chemotherapy treatments.

An agreement was set up so he could work off site, and he did. He allowed us to finish the year working diligently to what would seem an imminent end. However, not only did he kick the cancer, but he managed to regain his hair and come back with renewed strength and vigor.

During this time, he continued to shine when others would have crumpled ... In my 23 years at UNLV, I have never met any (administrative assistant) with his intelligence, due diligence, and commitment to a unit.

Film professor David Schmoeller wrote: Pirro Dollani is the bedrock of the film department. He is the patriarch and the matriarch of the department. He is actually the real integrity of our department.

...During those dark days, when his survival was in question -- and when he was absent from his job for so long -- we really understood what we were missing, what it was like NOT having Pirro make the film department run so smoothly. And the thoughts of losing Pirro really made a lasting impression on all of the film faculty and staff. We realized how vital he was for the film department. That it was not the same without him.