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Chancellor’s annual fishing trip gets high marks

By K.C. HOWARD
REVIEW-JOURNAL

Regent James Dean Leavitt caught the largest of all the salmon bagged this year on the chancellor’s annual fishing trip.

The 32-pounder secured bragging rights for Leavitt, a neophyte angler.

“Just the fact that I can tease Stavros for an entire year is priceless. Because he was shut out both years,” he said, referring to Regent Stavros Anthony.

The trip, which took place July 26-29 on Sonora Island in British Columbia, doubles as a higher education conference and is an annual affair Chancellor Jim Rogers hosts and funds at a cost of more than $4,000 per person.

The trip has been viewed skeptically by some higher education officials as more of a gift than a conference, in part because of the attendance of those outside academia: a few news anchors, former House member Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and former Regent Doug Hill, who now is working for Rogers’ media empire to name a few.

But those who went came back praising the lofty goals of the trip. The chancellor’s office also is preparing a documentary on the excursion.

The four days that six regents spent with about 80 or so higher education and communication gurus from around the country focused largely on health care, Rogers said.

Rogers, owner of Sunbelt Communications Co., which includes KVBC-TV, Channel 3, wants to develop a health sciences center in Nevada.

At the retreat, the new President of the University of Arizona, Robert Shelton, and University of Southern California Provost Max Nikias were both featured evening speakers. Rogers spoke to both about their medical school programs.

“For me the most important thing that came out of that whole fishing trip was the cooperative effort, the help we can get from other medical schools in telling us where to go. I was so pleased with their openness and willingness to help,” Rogers said.

Two Nevada higher education vice chancellors, the new presidents of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the University of Nevada, Reno, and a health care consultant spent Friday developing plans for the proposed health sciences center, including the creation of a new foundation separate of the UNLV and UNR foundations to help raise money. They also agreed on a managerial hierarchy that splits power evenly between UNLV and UNR.

“We sent in a boat for them but they got so wrapped up into it they never went out,” Rogers said of the group.

Regents were not involved in the center’s planning, which will go before the board’s health sciences committee and then the entire 13-member board for approval.

Regents went on different boats with one or two higher education officials spending the day getting to know their fishing buddies.

“I didn’t realize how helpful it would be to go away and to spend time together talking about those issues,” said Regent Michael Wixom, who flew up a day late because of business.

He fished one day with Rogers and Mike Reed, the new vice chancellor of finance. The next day he went out with UNR provost John Frederick and Cary Groth, the athletics director.

“We spoke a lot about trying to make policies and processes between the two institutions the same,” Wixom said.

“Mike (Reed) and I talked about 100 things,” Rogers said. “You try to find out about someone’s character more than you do about the specific issues they’re going to be involved in.”

Years ago, the conference began as a trip for Rogers’ Sunbelt employees, and Rogers still brings several workers from his various television stations. News 3’s Kendall Tenney attended along with Jim Snyder, a Channel 3 anchor.

Tenney said the trip will not impact his coverage of the chancellor.

“He (Rogers) understands I have a job to do and he might be upset if I didn’t cover him objectively,” he said.

Regent Linda Howard, who is campaigning for public administrator and is leaving the board, said the trip allowed her to exchange ideas with scholars from around the country on ways she might help education from a county position.

She wants to explore the possibility of using a percentage of the value of unclaimed property to give to K-12 education.

She also caught a 29-pound salmon.