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UNLV Receives $1 Million Gift to Create Endowed Chair in History

Jon Huntsman Sr. gift honors Sen. Harry Reid and will help position UNLV history department as leader in study of the Intermountain West.
Campus News  |  Jun 26, 2017  |  By Karyn S. Hollingsworth
Media Contact: Karyn Hollingsworth, UNLV College of Liberal Arts (702) 895-2513,
Len Dessup shakes hands with Jon Huntsman, Sr. with Sen. Harry Reid watching on

UNLV announced a $1 million gift from Jon Huntsman Sr. to its Department of History to expand the study of the region through the Harry Reid Endowed Chair for the History of the Intermountain West. From left: Len Jessup, UNLV president; Sen. Harry Reid; Jon Huntsman, Sr. (UNLV Creative Services)

UNLV announced a $1 million gift from businessman and philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. to its department of history to expand the study of the Intermountain West.

The gift is a collaboration between Sen. Harry Reid and Huntsman, who have been friends for 35 years, and the endowed chair is being created to honor Sen. Reid’s interest in history and life of public service.

“Sen. Reid is a dear friend and a great, honorable man,” said Huntsman. “He has been very instrumental throughout his life, particularly during his time in the U.S. Senate, even though we are on opposite sides of the aisle.”

The donation supports the creation of the Harry Reid Endowed Chair for the History of the Intermountain West. The chair, to be housed in the history department in the College of Liberal Arts, will help position the program as the national leader in the study of the Intermountain West region, which extends from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Rockies and includes all or parts of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.

“Mr. Huntsman’s gift allows us to embark on unique research of the Intermountain West,” said Sen. Reid, former majority leader of the United States Senate. “There is a gold mine for academics to discover regarding the history of the understudied American Intermountain West. Each state within the Intermountain West has a rich history. There has not been enough done to understand the relationship between states in the region.”

UNLV President Len Jessup applauded the collaboration, noting the effort not only elevates the reputation of the already excellent history department but also exemplifies the direction UNLV is taking to ensure its spot as a Top Tier university.

“We are honored by this gift and grateful for the research opportunities it will provide in terms of academic significance as well as its potential for great community impact,” Jessup said.

The gift will support the recruitment of a top historian and scholar in the study of the Intermountain West. Potential topics of study will include religion, water issues, politics, women, the economy, and other topics of interest.

“This is a great opportunity for an already strong Ph.D. program in history,” said Michael Green, associate professor of history. “One of the main fields we specialize in is the western U.S., and this contribution puts us on the road to adding another leading historian who will benefit all students, the department, the university, and the Intermountain West.”

About Sen. Harry Reid and Jon Huntsman Sr.

Born in Searchlight, Nevada, Harry Reid served 30 years in the U.S. Senate and is the longest-serving senator from the state. He served in the leadership of the Senate for 18 years, including nearly a decade as the Senate Majority Leader, where he took a leading role in shaping landmark legislation. He is renowned for his work promoting economic development, investing in infrastructure and clean energy development, and championing Nevada’s role as the country’s premier entertainment destination.

Sen. Reid recently joined UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law as its first Distinguished Fellow in Law and Policy where he will work with Boyd students and alumni, lecture and participate in classes, and pursue writing projects. Sen. Reid’s new role at the law school coincides with the creation of the MGM Resorts Public Policy Institute at UNLV, which he will co-chair with former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. The Public Policy Institute is a think tank that will seek bipartisan solutions on a range of economic, social, political and workplace issues.

Jon Huntsman Sr. is a prominent philanthropist who has contributed hundreds of millions to higher education, including to the University of Utah, Brigham Young University, Utah State University, and the University of Pennsylvania. His generosity is most notable for the creation of the Huntsman Cancer Institute with the University of Utah. Huntsman is founder and chairman of the Huntsman Corporation, a global manufacturer of chemicals for use in various industries, including transportation, home life, construction, energy and fuels, and clothing and footwear. The company operates in more than 30 countries and employs more than 15,000 people.