UNLV Acting President Donald Snyder has deep ties to the university and Southern Nevada. An executive with senior leadership experience in both the commercial banking and gaming industries, Snyder has also been involved with UNLV as a volunteer or dean since his arrival in Las Vegas more than 25 years ago. He was appointed acting president in February 2014. As president, Snyder will continue the campus’ surge toward Carnegie Tier 1 status, which includes plans to create a School of Medicine at UNLV.
Snyder was dean of the UNLV Harrah Hotel College from 2010 to 2013 and more recently served as UNLV’s executive dean for strategic development. He is also the point person for the UNLV stadium project through his role as chair of the UNLV Campus Improvement Authority Board (CIAB). The CIAB is charged with determining the need for and feasibility of an on-campus stadium.
Snyder remains involved in major strategic initiatives of the Hotel College, for which he helped gain legislative and gubernatorial support during the 2013 Legislative Session. This includes assisting College fundraising efforts for a proposed academic building and strengthening the UNLV’s role as the intellectual capital of global gaming, which is directly tied to the state economic development plan.
A prolific fundraiser, Snyder played an integral role as chairman of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. He is also a former member and chair of the UNLV Foundation and co-chair of the university’s successful $537 million Invent the Future capital campaign, which concluded in 2009. Snyder has served on the boards of more than 15 public and private companies, numerous local non-profits, and several legislative commissions, including chairing the Governor’s Commission on Medical Education, Research & Training in 2006. Snyder has been formally recognized on many occasions for outstanding community service, most recently as the 2013 Philanthropist of the Year by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.
Following his graduation from college in 1969, Snyder began a successful banking career, continuing involvement with the industry today. During 22 years with First Interstate Bank (now Wells Fargo), he rose from a management trainee in California to serve as Chairman of the Board & CEO of First Interstate Bank of Nevada from 1987 to 1991. He held leadership positions in retail and corporate banking, international banking, and real estate banking, and served on the Board of Directors of several First Interstate subsidiaries during his later years with First Interstate.
Subsequent to leaving First Interstate Bank, Snyder co-founded Bank of Nevada (originally called BankWest of Nevada). From its initial $8 million in assets, the Bank has grown into a multi-state banking organization, with the parent holding company, Western Alliance Bancorporation, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, with assets now of nearly $9 billion. While never serving in a management capacity, he has been an active member of the Board of Directors for both Bank of Nevada (where he has served as Chairman for many years) and Western Alliance Bancorporation.
Snyder’s move to the gaming industry started in 1992 when asked by downtown Las Vegas casino owners to lead the efforts to develop what became the Fremont Street Experience. He served as Chairman, President & CEO until July 1996, and continued as non- executive Chairman of the Board until 2006.
Following the successful opening and initial operation of the Fremont Street Experience, Snyder joined Boyd Gaming Corporation in 1996. He became a member of Boyd Gaming’s Board of Director in April 1996, Executive Vice President three months later, and President in January 1997 – a position he held until his retirement in 2005.
His retirement from Boyd Gaming was planned to coincide with efforts to move forward with the funding and development of what became The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Having been involved in the earliest efforts (starting in 1994) to develop a world class performing arts center, Snyder became Chairman of the Board in 1999, a position he continues to hold. While always serving in a non-paid capacity, he effectively teamed with Myron Martin (who become President & CEO during construction) to provide the leadership that made the center a reality.
Years before becoming an employee of UNLV, Snyder had a long history of active volunteer engagement with the university. He became a member of the Board of Trustees for the UNLV Foundation in 1988, served five years as Chairman of its Board, and served as Chairman of the first and only comprehensive capital campaign.
For his work supporting UNLV, Snyder was awarded the President’s Medal in 2000, an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree in 2001, and was named (by the NSHE Board of Regents) a Distinguished Nevadan in 2003. For his leadership in the business community, he was inducted into the Nevada Business Hall of Fame by UNLV’s Lee Business School in 2011. In recognition of their significant philanthropic gifts to UNLV, Snyder and his wife Dee were inducted into UNLV’s Palladium Society in 2009.
Snyder has been actively involved in numerous other businesses, charitable and civic activities in Nevada over his more than 25 years in Southern Nevada. In recent years, he has served on boards for Bank of Nevada and its parent, Western Alliance Bancorporation (NYSE: WAL); NV Energy (NYSE: NVE, until its December 2013 acquisition); Tutor Perini Corporation (NYSE: TPC); and Switch Communications Group LLC (privately held).
Additionally, Snyder has served on numerous non-profit boards over his time in Nevada. He presently serves on the boards of The Smith Center (Chairman), Nathan Adelson Hospice (past Chairman), and the Governor’s Workforce Development Board. His past board service includes the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, Nevada Resort Association, American Gaming Association, United Way of Southern Nevada (Past Chairman and two-time chairman of the annual fundraising campaign), Nevada Development Authority (past Chairman), Council for a Better Nevada (past Chairman), and Tournament Players Club at Summerlin.
Snyder is a cum laude graduate of the University of Wyoming (1969), with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Snyder and his wife, Dee, have been married for more than 42 years, have three grown children and three grandchildren.