The New Man on Campus: Len Jessup

UNLV president

len_jessup_WEBACHIEVEMENTS Some of the highlights from what University Regent Kevin Page calls Jessup’s “sick résumé”: Prodigious fundraiser at Washington State University; creator of a University of Arizona institution that focuses on moving inventions and innovations from the campus to the marketplace; steward of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona; and guiding hand in restructuring Arizona’s academic medical school. But the one experience that could most benefit UNLV may be his graduate studies in organizational behavior. “This is a heavy lift,” he says, “and it’s going to take a lot of us to get there, both on campus and off, [creating] partnerships to get stuff done.”

THE TO-DO LIST During his first year on the job, a significant chunk of Jessup’s time will be spent on continuing UNLV’s strategic planning process to become a Carnegie Tier 1 research university, which includes a medical school, and forming political, community and corporate relationships to launch a comprehensive capital campaign. “It really means working very hard now to raise up every part of the university—teaching and learning, the research dimension, community service, medical school and athletics.”

SPEAKING OF ATHLETICS Count the former junior college baseball player among those university presidents who believe successful intercollegiate athletic programs are a vital component to an institution of higher learning. “It’s important not only for people on campus but for alumni and others off campus. [Sports] are the window through which many view the university. You need to be doing well so people are looking—and the window’s gotta be squeaky clean.”

A TELLING GESTURE Endearing himself to faculty right off the bat, Jessup insisted he go through the tenure process at UNLV. “I just didn’t feel that it was appropriate to have it be dictated to them that I was going to be accepted as a tenured faculty member on this campus. That’s their right, their prerogative—I wanted them to decide that, not me.”

MOTIVATION The grandson of Italian immigrants, Jessup was inspired by the work ethic of family members who were entrepreneurs. The grueling effort inherent in running small businesses instilled a sense of duty. “Part of my DNA is paying back that debt for the sacrifices they made,” Jessup says. “I want to be able to look back and know that I’ve had as much positive impact on as many people as possible, and that I never shied away from an opportunity to do that.”

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