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UNLV Advocate E. Parry Thomas Remembered for Lasting Impact

Thomas, whose name adorns the Thomas & Mack Center, was a long time supporter of UNLV and considered a visionary in the Las Vegas community.

People  |  Aug 29, 2016  |  By Nikki Troxclair
E. Parry Thomas

Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services

Editor's Note: 

To honor the legacy of Mr. Thomas, the UNLV Foundation has created an endowed scholarship in his name.

E. Parry Thomas, who provided significant resources to the community and to UNLV, passed away on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, at the age of 95. He leaves a legacy focused on enhancing and expanding the educational experiences of current and future students.

Thomas and his business partner, Jerry Mack, always had a keen interest in building academic opportunities throughout the Las Vegas Valley. Their dedication to grow UNLV into a prominent higher education institution never waivered. Both men were instrumental in acquiring land for what became the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) in the 1950s. Years later, Thomas worked with Donald C. Moyer, UNLV's first president, to form the Nevada Southern University Land Foundation. The foundation worked to finance the purchase of 300 acres surrounding Maryland Parkway, which was later sold to the university – nearly doubling the size of the main campus. 

"Parry had such a profound impact on Las Vegas and on the university," said UNLV President Len Jessup. "His contribution goes far beyond the incredible basketball arena that proudly carries his name. He and his partner Jerry Mack made it possible for our campus to expand – we are clearly now reaching for aspirations that would not be possible if not for the fact that we are standing on the shoulders of these two giants."

In 1983, the opening of the Thomas & Mack Center further solidified the lasting impact made by both men. Their $1 million gift led to the $30 million construction of the multi-use facility. Today, the 267,450 square-foot arena hosts more than 250 diverse and distinct events annually. The Thomas & Mack Center consistently ranks among the highest-grossing venues in the nation for its size, and nearly 15 million guests have passed through its doors.

In 2001, the Thomas Family and Joyce Mack made a joint contribution to the law school of $2 million to establish the Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic, which provides free legal services on issues such as child welfare, juvenile justice, immigration, education and capital defense. In these clinics, student attorneys work under faculty supervision with UNLV social work and education students to provide high quality representation to children, youths, and adults in trouble, many of whom would otherwise face the legal system with no lawyer on or by their side. This gift was followed by a $3 million commitment in 2005 that established the Thomas & Mack Moot Court Complex at the William S. Boyd School of Law. The Moot Court complex supports the school's appellate advocacy training programs and serves as a host site for judicial proceedings by state and federal courts, including the Nevada Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Thomas was a dedicated advocate for the business community and was a visionary focused on the area's economic development. As Chairman of the Board of Valley Bank of Nevada (now Bank of America Nevada), Thomas helped to create major funding sources for Las Vegas' gaming industry. The leadership that Thomas demonstrated throughout his career was lauded by many. In 1989, the American Gaming Association named him to the Gaming Hall of Fame. Thomas was part of the inaugural group to be inducted into the Nevada Business Hall of Fame in 2002.