The UNLV Alumni Association and the university community are mourning the sudden death Friday of alumnus Sam Lieberman, a regent for the Nevada System of Higher Education.
A longtime advocate for higher education, Lieberman earned a bachelor of social work degree in 1996. From 2000 to 2008 he served on the board of the Alumni Association. Currently, he was chairing the UNLV Presidential Search Committee.
"UNLV lost one of its greatest champions on Friday with the untimely passing of alumnus and Regent Sam Lieberman," said UNLV President Marta Meana. "Sam had an acute ability to discern the link between systems and the people they impact, with an endless drive to make them better. His ever-present wit and humor brought levity, even during tough conversations. Perhaps even more, I’ll miss his empathy and insight into the needs of our students, and his vast knowledge of UNLV and of higher education in Nevada. He used his voice to advocate for the vulnerable, he celebrated our wins, and he was there to support us whenever we needed him.
"As we reflect on Sam’s life and legacy, let’s try to live how Sam lived – to lend a voice to those who need it, to be kind and truly listen to one another, and to lift each other up at a time when it is so desperately needed," Meana said.
Stacey Purcell, president of the Alumni Association, recalled, "I first met Sam in 1989 at the UNLV Student Union. He was a loyal Sigma Chi brother who was extremely active on campus, and unlike anyone else — so smart and intellectual, so well known, and always surrounded by a lot of friends. As an alumnus, Sam had a special spirit about him — and he loved UNLV. He was passionate, dedicated, and involved. I’ll remember him as friendly to everyone, but business-minded, too, always thinking of the greater good. He was a Rebel with a cause. The Las Vegas and UNLV communities will truly miss him."
Lieberman, 58, had served on the Board of Regents since 2015. He represented District 5, which includes portions of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and unincorporated Clark County. He was seeking re-election at the time of his death. Among his roles on the board were serving as chair of the Cultural Diversity Committee and vice chair of the Community College Committee. He was also a member of the Academic, Research and Student Affairs; Health Sciences System; and Security committees.
He was a lifetime member of the UNLV Alumni Association and instrumental in starting the College of Liberal Arts Alumni Chapter. He was named the college’s Alumnus of the Year in 2009. He also was a member of the College of Liberal Arts Dean's Leadership Board. He volunteered at many university events and donated consistently to university programs.
Lieberman was involved in many charitable and civic activities over the years. Chair of the Nevada State Democratic Party from 2008 to 2011, he headed the party in one of the toughest political environments for Democrats in decades. He also served on the Nevada State Board of Education.
At the time of his death, he was the president of the board and lay leader of Congregation P’Nai Tikvah. An online memorial service will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Interment will be in Minneapolis.
Thom Reilly, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, said, “We were devastated to learn of Sam’s death. He was so passionate about Nevada’s public higher education system and he cared very deeply about bettering our system for our students.”
Regents' Chair Jason Geddes added, “I have never met a greater advocate for students and their concerns. He was a great leader and a great friend. I’m absolutely shocked and saddened by this news.”
Gifts to UNLV in Lieberman’s memory can be designated to the UNLV Foundation Scholarship Endowment Fund.