On May 7, 2022, the Harrah College of Hospitality dedicated Hospitality Hall’s fourth-floor executive suite to the college’s founding dean, Jerry Vallen, and his beloved wife, Flossie. The posthumous dedication pays tribute to the Vallen legacy while inspiring a new generation of Hospitality Rebels.
In addition to signage bearing its new name, the Jerry and Flossie Vallen Executive Suite and Veranda features a hallway gallery with historical photos highlighting such important college events as the groundbreaking of Beam Hall, UNLVino’s early years, and a grant signing that solidified the college’s long-term alliance with the Nevada Resort Association.
A Man On a Mission
Jerry Vallen’s 22-year tenure as dean was distinguished by his fierce loyalty to the program, relentless advocacy for students, and unique ability to bring academia and industry together. But success didn’t come easy.
In 1967, Jerry Vallen moved his family from Canton, New York to head up a new “Hotel Administration” department on a barely-known campus in the desert. It was a bold move for the husband and father of four.
“Can you imagine the courage it took at that time?” said Vallen’s son, Gary Vallen. “He took a family of six to Las Vegas from a little town! All of his friends told him it was the biggest mistake of his life!”
The Philadelphia-born academic quickly got to work shaping the new department while doing battle with the legions of naysayers doubting the legitimacy of the program. As he traversed both administrative and political obstacles, Vallen grew enrollment sharply by actively recruiting transfer students. Along the way, he made countless uncertain students feel at home at UNLV.
“Not only did he [Dean Vallen] help students,” said Hospitality alumna and general manager of Palms Casino Resort, Cindy Keiser Murphy, “he helped parents by instilling that sense of pride about coming to study at UNLV and hospitality.”
Just two years after his family’s big move, Vallen fought for and won the program’s autonomy. An independent “Hotel School” represented a new educational model in which academia and industry worked hand in hand. Dean Vallen would go on to earn the respect of not only the university but of academic institutions and industry practitioners throughout the world.
A “Second Lady” Like No Other
Florence “Flossie” Vallen was much more than a dean’s wife. Whether she was providing meals to home-sick students or collecting tickets at the door of UNLV’s fledging wine festival, UNLVino, Flossie Vallen was a stalwart presence during the college’s formative years. Though tiny in stature, she was generous in spirit – supporting the college and its students through good times and bad. Her tireless dedication helped lay the groundwork for the college’s rise to international prominence.
“Jerry may have the foundation of the college,” said long-time friend and colleague Larry Ruvo, “but Flossie was Jerry’s foundation.”