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Father, son pursue UNLV degrees together

By summer, James Dean Leavitt and Jesse Daniel Leavitt will share more than a family name.

Diplomas in hand, father and son will walk the stage as newly minted UNLV graduates at the school’s Thomas & Mack Center — the elder with a master’s degree in gaming law and the scion with a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling.

“For us to be attending UNLV at the same time is incredible,” said the senior James Dean Leavitt, a longtime Las Vegas lawyer who sits on the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents. “A cute part of the story is our schedules actually don’t permit time for us to see each other on campus. I’m just waiting for the day we’ll be walking around and see each other.”

The May 14 graduation ceremony will be extra special for James Dean Leavitt, who is part of an inaugural class pursuing the school’s new degree in gaming law. Officials say the university already offers more courses on the gambling industry than any other law school in the country.

“We’re elated that political and education leaders in the state are interested in the program,” said Boyd Law School Dean Dan Hamilton, referring to the elder Leavitt and his classmate, state Sen. Becky Harris, R-Las Vegas. “It’s a great opportunity to have policymakers from the state in the class because they offer a unique and valuable perspective.”

Board members lauded James Dean Leavitt for juggling work, school and public service, noting that his experience as a UNLV student brings on-the-ground insight to the panel.

“It’ll be really special to see a colleague walking across the stage,” fellow Regent Allison Stephens said. “With his son graduating at the same time, I know that’s something significant for him. As a mom, I can understand how meaningful that would be.”

Jesse Daniel Leavitt, who has a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, said he is inspired to see his 54-year-old father pursue higher education nearly 25 years after getting his law degree from the University of Idaho.

“I’m really proud,” said the younger Leavitt, 26. “I think it’s important to keep learning throughout your life. It’ll be a very cool moment to have that experience together — not many people get to say they’re graduating with their dad.”

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