Our alumni are succeeding as industry leaders, up-and-coming entrepreneurs, and fervent supporters of their communities. No doubt, they've all learned some lessons along the way. We asked the 2014 Alumni of the Year to share a story from their careers. The UNLV Alumni Association are honoring these graduates during its Homecoming event Oct. 9. It will also bestow the Silver State Award on former Regent Carolyn Sparks and the Outstanding Faculty Award on hotel administration professor Seyhmus Baloglu.
The time I ... led a team by scrubbing toilets
Brent Bell, '91 BS Business Administration, 2014 Alumnus of the Year -- Bell is president and CEO of Whittlesea-Bell, one of the largest private transportation conglomerates in Nevada with a fleet of 450 taxicabs, 230 limousines, and 200 other vehicles. A vocal advocate and volunteer for UNLV, Bell is the association's top honoree as the 2014 UNLV Alumnus of the Year.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the airport was closed for five days. When it reopened, we had 767s landing with just six people onboard. There was no demand for limo service or taxicabs. I had never dealt with anything like this.
I was very serious about cutting costs and about everyone chipping in. I cut salaries, I cut hours, and I took the same percentage pay cut that everyone else did. I also cut janitorial service. I got the staff together and told them they were going to be responsible for cleaning their own work areas and bathrooms. I showed up in jeans and a T-shirt the next day, put the rubber gloves on, and scrubbed toilets. I cleaned the dirtiest bathroom. My assistant took a picture and sent it to my wife. When I got home, I heard about it because we had been married for five years, and I had never cleaned a bathroom.
So, it got me in trouble at home. But that move earned me a lot of respect at work. Never underestimate the power of leading by example.
The Time I ... became an unofficial UNLV merchandise distributor
Dr. Tony Alamo, '86 BA Chemistry, College of Sciences Alumnus of the Year -- Alamo is the medical director of Alamo Medical Clinic in Henderson and current chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. The Las Vegas native returned to the valley to practice medicine after attending the University of Southern California School of Medicine. He was also a member and eventually chair of the Nevada State Athletic Commission from 2001 to 2007.
While I was in medical school and doing my residency at USC from 1986 to 1994, the Runnin' Rebels went to the Final Four three times and won the national championship once. During that time in L.A., I found that anything unattended with UNLV written on it disappeared.
I came to find out these where highly wanted commodities and therefore I became an unofficial distributor of UNLV goods -- caps, shirts, jerseys, notebooks, etc. I took orders and picked up merchandise during trips back home for the holidays.
While it could have been a fun entrepreneurial move, I didn't really do it with the intention of making money. I just liked seeing so many UNLV logos making their way around L.A. Some of my friends would take the product with the idea of paying me back. They still owe me money.
The time I ... risked getting arrested
Joe Aldridge, '79 MA Theatre, College of Fine Arts Alumnus of the Year -- Employed at UNLV since 1974, Aldridge served as technical director of the theatre department from 1984 to 2005 and currently coordinates entertainment engineering & design, a multidisciplinary program he helped develop with the College of Engineering in 2007. He has been involved in more than 200 productions on campus.
The play Steambath by Bruce Jay Friedman was one of my two thesis projects. It was cutting edge for 1979. It was the first time that we had full-frontal
nudity on the university stage in Las Vegas. It wasn't the nudity that made this my favorite production; it was that we were willing to take the chance of offending the sensibilities of people.
The only blowback was that we discovered there's an ordinance here where you can't have full-frontal nudity on stage and serve alcohol. Typically, there's a bar in the lobby. We got wind of an impending raid, of a visit from the cops. You couldn't have both, so we got rid of the booze. We didn't want to compromise the production values.
The time I ... benefited from a rumor
Keith Brown, '05 JD, William S. Boyd School of Law Alumnus of the Year -- Working as associate general counsel at Southwest Gas Corp., Brown also holds the distinction of being the first Boyd School of Law night student to graduate first in his class. He continued his 24-year career in accounting and public utilities while attending Boyd to prepare for his second career in law.
My dream job I owe to serendipity and a rumor -- a rumor that, to this day, I am still uncertain who started. As a part-time student in the Boyd night program, I worked full-time for Southwest Gas Corp., my employer for 15 years at that point. I dreamed of staying on as part of in-house counsel, but openings were rare.
Someone began a rumor that I was leaving as soon as I graduated. Southwest's general counsel caught word of the rumor and called me to his office. Unbeknownst to me, a senior attorney was considering retirement. Though I had not graduated yet, the then recently-approved Nevada Supreme Court student practitioner rule would allow me to practice under the supervision of a licensed attorney. A transitional position was created, allowing me to work in the legal affairs department, mentored by the attorney who was retiring, all while completing my final semester at Boyd. My dream job became a reality! I could not have planned it better if I tried. I am forever grateful for my good fortune -- and to whoever started that rumor.
The time I ... conquered my jitters
Randall J. Campanale, '77 BS Finance, Achievement in Service Award -- With more than 30 years of wealth management experience, Campanale is senior vice president and senior portfolio manager for The Northern Trust Company and previously served as regional manager with Wells Fargo Private Client Services. He has been a passionate supporter of UNLV and its alumni for three decades.
There are various studies showing that the greatest fear Americans have, besides death, is public speaking. My first job at a bank was to go out and discuss estate-planning
issues. I would get very nervous about speaking to groups. When you're nervous in a speech or a discussion with a group, your focus is on trying to speak effectively.
So the one piece of advice that I always give folks in college is to join Toastmasters, like I did. Within six months, my speaking was more about making sure I imparted information rather than going down a speaking checklist of things like maintaining eye contact -- all of those things had become second nature when you get some training.
The time I ... landed my dream job right out of school
Nicole Ann Cavenagh, '03 MA and '08 Ph.D Psychology, College of Liberal Arts Alumna of the Year -- Cavenagh is a neuropsychologist and clinical director for Touro University's?Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities, where she helped create a paid ?pre-doctoral internship. Cavenagh also supervises practicum experiences for doctoral candidates, serves on the Nevada State Board of Osteopathic Medicine, and is the co-training director of the Nevada Psychological Association Training Consortium internship program.
After completing my internship at UCLA, I knew I wanted to move back to Las Vegas. It had become home to me over the course of 13 years, but unfortunately there were no opportunities that aligned with my clinical interests. Two days before signing a contract with UCLA, I received a call from Touro University Nevada. They couldn't ?have painted a more perfect job picture.
But I was as green as they come for a ?director role, and during the lengthy interview process, I was convinced that the ?associate vice president for administration -- a master of silence -- was not at all impressed with me. But Mike ?Harter, who was CEO/senior provost at the time, took a huge chance on me.
I would be lying ?if I didn't say I was terrified when I started. You have to be willing to ask questions and not be ashamed to admit what you don't know. Six years later, we've grown this program from 30 monthly patient visits to more than 400 today. I owe a lot to the Harter family. They ?really helped to shape my career. And that vice president I once thought disliked me has been one of my greatest allies.
The time I ... applied a full-court press
Jerald M. Dick, '65 BS Business Administration, Lee Business School Alumnus of the Year -- Recruited to UNLV on a basketball scholarship, Dick was part of the university's second graduating class. His first job out of college was leasing space in the then-new Boulevard Mall on Maryland Parkway. Dick's 46-year career developing shopping centers mirrored the rise of the mall as a cornerstone of American consumerism.
Even though Boulevard Mall was a local project, my name got out there in national notoriety because bringing downtown retailers into a mall was really hard to do in the '60s, and I succeeded.
Les Wexner started The Limited, the apparel stores for women. He came to me and said, "You're the only guy who can put together my real estate department and grow this business." He convinced me. When I went there, The Limited had 300 stores doing $350 million in business. When I retired seven years later, we had over 3,000 stores doing $3.5 billion.
Now, in the '70s and '80s, all of these retailers were growing incredibly. So I was in the right place at the right time. I got lucky. But you've got to know how to take advantage of that. My high school basketball coach would always preach to the team, "Never leave any regrets on the court." So I always approached every business that way. I didn't always win, but that got me more results than anything.
The time I ... helped a stranger and befriended a great man
Gerard J. Inzerillo, '75 BS Hotel Administration, William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration Alumnus of the Year -- In his more than four decades at the helm of major hospitality companies, Inzerillo led development of hotels such as Morgans, the Delano, and Atlantis Resorts. He is the former president and CEO of IMG Artists, a global leader in performing arts management, and currently leads Forbes Travel Guide as chief executive.
There are young people asking me, "How can I be the next Conrad Hilton?" The answer is you don't get overwhelmed. Just practice your craft every day and build relationships.
You have to collect relationships like bricks, one at a time. You're going to go to work and say, "OK, I have to collect a brick today." You're going to have some lucky days where you collect two bricks. You're going to have some days where you stumble and break bricks. But if you respect relationships and you fulfill your promises, before you know it, all those bricks add up to a wall, and that's where reputations come from.
Relationships often begin with something small, by doing something without expectation. Acts of kindness bestow new relationships. For example, as a result of being kind to a woman by the name of Barbara Masakela, she told my act of kindness to a guy by the name of Nelson Mandela. That led to Mandela and I becoming lifelong friends, a close relationship with one of the great moral leaders of our time.
The time I ... reset my hiring priorities
Dr. Rewadee Meevasin, '07 Doctor of Dental Medicine, School of Dental Medicine Alumna of the Year -- A native Las Vegan known to patients as Dr. Dee Dee, Meevasin is the owner of Dee for Dentist and one of the leading proponents of digital dentistry in Southern Nevada.
Working for another doctor, I only had to worry about the dentistry. Overhead, payroll, and staff weren't issues (for me). I wanted to go for it, but I didn't imagine the amount of stress I would face owning my own business.
I had one business class in the whole four years of school. My husband quit his job to help, and we came up with a business plan. I had saved money, we had support from both of our parents, and we got a bank loan. We had a friend who was an architect, another was an interior designer, then a financial planner, and we had an IT friend setting up workstations. That really saved us.
Then I needed a staff. At first, I thought I wanted someone with experience, and that's how I hired. We had some turnover. When I interview now, I want to know more about the person than their skills. I'm looking for personality, that they're easygoing, fun, and that they're going to come to work happy. We see (employees) more than we see our families, so it's important to trust them, to respect them, and to genuinely like them. I can train on the skills.
The time I ... had to sink or swim
Chad W. Miller, '92 BS Electrical Engineering, Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering Alumnus of the Year -- An intellectual property attorney, Miller's expertises include patent and trademark prosecution. He is a co-founder of Weide & Miller, Ltd. and provides pro bono services to the College of Engineering Senior Design Competition and to the Andre Agassi Foundation.
After years of a booming economy, I ventured out to form my own law firm in 2000, just in time for the dot-com crash and then the housing bust. As a new business, it felt as if we were a small boat braving rough seas.
I believed, and still do, that it would be difficult for a business to fail if it simply provided a superior product for a better price than competitors. We didn't place much emphasis on short-term revenue, growth, or profits. The focus was on high-quality products, relationships, and client satisfaction. We knew if these basics were met, the numbers would follow.
And they did. We never borrowed money, and still won't, having seen that debt is the primary reason for so many of our clients' insolvency. And even though the economy was brutal, we are proud that we never laid off anyone. It simply was not an option.
The time I ... endured an awkward four-hour job interview
Lisa Morris Hibbler, '96 BA Environmental Studies, '98 MPA, Greenspun College of Urban Affairs Alumna of the Year -- After UNLV, Morris Hibbler earned a doctorate in public administration from the University of La Verne in 2005 and has worked nearly two decades for the city of Las Vegas. The deputy director for the office of community services is also a major player in helping re-shape the state's juvenile justice system and a fierce advocate for helping foster children find permanent homes. She is on Gov. Brian Sandoval's Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice and on the Juvenile Justice Commission.
It was 1996, and I had been working as an intern in the Clark County Commissioners Office. I knew I wanted a career in public service. I followed a lead and applied for a job with the city for a management analyst position for the office of federal, state, and local initiatives.
The interviewer asked me a few questions then gave me a report to type up. It was some sort of grant proposal, and it had some handwritten notes. I think she was looking for some free labor -- and she got it. Several hours later, I was still typing. I was 20, about to graduate, and I was so nervous. I started saying "I gotta leave now" and we just kept going. It was one of those experiences where you leave and think: What in the world just happened? But I landed a top-notch job, and 17 years later, I'm still with the city and couldn't be happier.
I graduated from college prepared for a lot of things. But oftentimes the real world is totally different. You have to be flexible, no matter how weird things can get.
The time I ... stopped belaboring my labor
Robert Smale, '95 BA History and Spanish, Honors College Alumnus of the Year -- Smale served as captain of UNLV's swim team for two years before graduating summa cum laude from the Honors College and completing his doctoral degree at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a history professor at the University of Missouri and author of I Sweat the Flavor of Tin: Labor Activism in Early Twentieth Century Bolivia.
I spent two years in Bolivia conducting research in the archives on the labor movement for my dissertation. I came back to the states, and my wife and I had our first child. After a year of fatherhood and teaching my own classes, I had made almost no progress on my dissertation.
We moved back to Austin so I could cut my workload. But then there was another issue: I had accumulated just an enormous amount of material, an overwhelming amount of data. You think, I spent two years on this, I've put so much work into this -- it all needs to go into the dissertation. Then, when you're editing rationally, you realize it doesn't work. It's not bad material. It just doesn't all belong. It doesn't all have to go in. But letting go is really, really tough.
It still took me two more years to finish the dissertation after narrowing the focus. The dream is that perhaps the discarded material can come out as something else later on, perhaps an article. But for me, it's still in a drawer.
The times I ... knew I built the best team
Victoria VanMeetren, '81 AA Nursing, '96 BS Healthcare Administration, '05 EMBA, School of Nursing Alumna of the Year -- VanMeetren was most recently the president and CEO of Dignity Health's San Martin campus. She was also instrumental in developing Dignity's Siena Campus in 2000. Under her leadership, the San Martin campus was ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report for neurology and neurosurgery.
In virtually every career evaluation, I've had comments that have touched on my ability to build a great team. It's something I haven't given much thought, but when reflecting on a long career, maybe I was indeed lucky enough to have picked some great ones.
Once, when a young couple expecting their first child was warned about coming to the hospital too early; they waited perhaps a little too long. The father ended up "catching" the baby in the car in our parking lot. Even more impressive than the doctors' responses was how the housekeepers and nurses cleaned the car for the couple while they recuperated with their healthy newborn.
There was also the time a young bride-to-be dying of Stage-4 cancer wanted to marry her betrothed. The chaplain made the veil, a nurse furnished the dress, the kitchen crew baked a cake, and the ceremony was completed with a small group of onlookers. Another time, a homeless man suffering from severe dehydration and malnutrition stayed with us for 24 hours. He returned to his life cleaned, groomed, and with freshly pressed clothes. The confidence on his face was priceless.
For full bios on the Alumni of the Year, read the Alumni Association announcement.
The Alumni Association also bestowed two awards upon non-alumni. The Silver State Award recognizes the support a non-alumnus has given to the academic community. The Outstanding Faculty Award is based on a faculty member's service to the community and achievement in his or her field.
Carolyn M. Sparks, Silver State Award
Sparks is a former regent and chair of the Board of Regents for the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE). Sparks and her husband, Kenneth, founded International Insurance Services, Ltd. in 1966, and she serves as President. She was appointed by then Governor Richard Bryan to the Statewide Committee for the Funding of Higher Education in 1987. She was also appointed by Governor Bob Miller as the Statewide Co-Chairman of the State of Nevada's 125th Anniversary Committee for 1989-1990 and in 2004, she was appointed to the Nevada State Taxi Cab Authority by Governor Kenny Guinn.
Sparks served on the board of directors for the Showboat Hotel & Casino from 1991 until it was sold to Harrah's. She followed her father, Fred Morledge, who was one of the builders and original partners. She was on the board of directors of PriMerit Bank from 1988 until it merged with another banking institution, and she was a long-time member of the board of directors of Southwest Gas Corporation.
As a native of Southern Nevada, Sparks' humanitarian efforts for the community are many and varied, from her earliest involvement as area chairman for the American Cancer Society and fundraiser for Junior Mesquite Club and Home of the Good Shepherd to her current work with the Nevada Children's Center. She founded the Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation (now known as the University Medical Center Foundation), the Children's Miracle Network Telethon, the Nevada Children's Center, and the Nevada Children's Center Foundation.
Sparks remains active with the International Women's Forum and the Rotary Club of Las Vegas. She is also a past president of the Salvation Army Advisory Board and remains on the board. In addition, she serves as a member of the board of trustees for UNLV Foundation. In 2014, she received the Distinguished Nevadan Award from the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
Seyhmus Baloglu, Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year
Baloglu is a professor and Harrah Distinguished Chair in the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration. He holds an MBA from Hawaii Pacific University and a doctoral degree in hospitality marketing from Virginia Tech University. He is a certified hospitality educator (CHE) by American Lodging Association and certified Total Quality Management facilitator.
Dr. Baloglu has been consistently included in citation report articles in the literature, as one of the most frequently cited scholars and significant contributors to the hospitality and tourism literature. His research credentials have earned him both an international reputation and placement on the editorial boards of more than ten hospitality and tourism journals.
Dr. Baloglu is a faculty member with few peers. He is an outstanding scholar, researcher, writer, and mentor to both faculty and graduate students. His work ethic serves as an inspiration to junior faculty members and doctoral students alike. He is a valuable member of the campus community who truly believes his work has the potential to change a student's life.