“Let his recording prove them wrong”

Numerology insists that the number 711 is as lucky as luck can get. Carol C. Harter was the seventh president of UNLV. His tenure lasted 11 years.

Do the math and you will realize: numerology has succeeded. The President Emeritus was lucky for UNLV.

Leave a lasting legacy

“In my very first speech that I gave to the faculty, I said, ‘We have to be the kind of big, urban university that UCLA or the other big institutions are – because we can do that,'” recalls Harter, who guided UNLV’s impressive growth during his 1995-2006 presidency.

It was an ambition that UNLV’s longest-serving president pursued aggressively, with impressive results. To summarize his list of accomplishments – not an easy task – consider just a partial list of legacy:

  • Supporting unprecedented growth, with the construction of 17 new buildings, including the Lied Library.
  • Creation of over 100 new programs of study – including those conferred by the School of Dentistry and the William S. Boyd School of Law, advocating the creation of both.
  • Putting the university on the path to a Carnegie-designated R1 research institution, a feat it would accomplish in 2018
  • To make UNLV more student-centered and more responsive to student needs.
  • Spearheaded funding to establish the Greenspun College of Public Affairs.
  • Stimulating the Invent the Future campaign, at the time the most ambitious fundraising program in UNLV’s history.
  • Co-founder of the Beverly Rogers International Literary Center, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute, which she continued to direct after leaving the presidency.
  • Oh, and she also made history as the university’s first female president, a milestone she built on by promoting gender equality on campus and in the community, supporting the creation of the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada.

“Just keep going, that’s my first piece of advice,” Harter tells young women hoping to carve out a career in university administration similar to hers. “You know who you are, you’re in a position where your education is likely to be at a high level, there’s nothing you can’t do. And don’t let anyone stop you or say, ‘It’s not is not your job”.

As she progressed in her career, Harter often found herself the only woman in an executive room. “You may feel uncomfortable,” she said, “but that’s no obstacle.”

A love of literature blossoms

No barriers deterred Harter, whose journey to college heights began humbly in Brooklyn, NY, where she was born on June 1, 1941.

“We weren’t rich at all, we lived modestly in a small house,” she says, fondly recalling the pleasures of a New York upbringing and working-class life. “We used to go to Jones Beach regularly, where I worked as a clerk, cashier and lifeguard.”

Harter’s father was a businessman who had earned a degree in finance from New York University, dating at night for many years.

“He was hoping that I would somehow be interested in the business world, which is kind of when you’re president of a university,” she says. “You’re running a major operation, it’s a professional life as well as an academic one. So he was very proud of what I did.

Her mother, a typical housewife of the time, reveled in her daughter’s penchant for reading and creativity.

“She was just a darling thing,” Harter says of her mother. “She was very supportive and loved my artistic side and my literary side.”

This literary side appeared very early. First came a classic for young female readership: The Mysteries of Nancy Drew.

“I read every one of them, cover to cover,” says Harter, who later happily lost herself in serious literature via a collection purchased by her mother. “It was beautifully bound in gold and brown and green leather. I read Great Expectations and The Count of Monte Cristo and just most of the classic books she had collected. I realized when I got to college that I had read a lot of classics, that I had educated myself.

Inspired by a high school teacher, Harter excelled in English classes with honors, but also harbored an interest in chemistry, which could have paved the way for her life had she not been discouraged.

“When I went to what was then Harpur College (now Binghamton University) and tried to enroll as a chemistry student, the dean of students, who was a woman, said : ‘You can’t do that, women don’t do chemistry. , you have to do something else.’

“She shouldn’t have discouraged me like that, she should have encouraged me, but I took her advice and signed up for a literature major.”

Still, Harter viewed literature more as a hobby than a launching pad for her future career until a faculty member nudged her into graduate school, eventually earning her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. in English and American literature.

During her college career, she also met Mike – her husband of 61+ years – around a ping pong table in a campus game room.

“I was dating a guy who liked to gamble and I was beating him. And Mike was in this game room watching and he said he wanted to play with me. And of course he beat me,” she recalls.

It was love at first serve, more or less. And who wouldn’t trade a defeat at table tennis for a lifelong love? “It sure is,” she said. They married when she was 19.

The Carol C. Harter Classroom Building Complex was named for the former president of UNLV to honor her commitment to student success.

The road to university

Academia as a career began for Harter when she served as dean of students and vice president for administration at Ohio University, a decision she attributes to chance.

While working as a faculty member and campus ombudsman, the new president asked her to inquire into student and faculty grievances. After impressing him with her insight and ability to work effectively with students and faculty, she rose through the administrative ranks.

Next came a position as president of SUNY Geneseo. But after six years, job limitations made her eyes wander to other opportunities.

“I felt a bit trapped,” she says, noting that the then-system chancellor did not distinguish between state institutions when distributing budgets. “Being really good had no effect on how much money you got in the budget. Feeling constrained, there was really nothing more I could do for the place without more money. We just started looking at what kind of place is likely to be a place where we can get creative. »

Enter a city on the other side of the country known for its constant reinvention.

“It’s weird when you’re at Geneseo as president, a small liberal arts school in upstate New York, and you end up in a big city that’s developing a big university. I’m telling you, it’s a big step forward,” Harter says. “I’ve been here 25 years and people still ask me, ‘How the hell did Carol Harter end up in Las Vegas?’ “

Here’s how she did it:

“Las Vegas was growing like crazy and the institution was very young and competing with Reno to get started. It made him really appealing to me. It was just a feeling of aspiration that we could do something big with UNLV. And I think it happened. It’s an attractive place for teachers and students, I think.

Not that his entry into the campus community was easy. She had to overcome resistance all too common to anyone crossing a glass ceiling. Such issues would follow her through her tenure, but Harter was determined to let her record prove them wrong.

“Several of the exact people who resisted terribly early on have become good friends and supporters, who end up saying, ‘This person is pretty good. It helps a lot to strengthen the institution and the presidency.

Of all her historic accomplishments, she cites several that stand out, including UNLV’s status as an RI research institution.

“At that time (when she was made president) we were barely in search two, I think we might even have been in search three,” she says. “It’s research one now, which is great, a great achievement.”

Also on the pride list: the launch of professional schools of law, dentistry and architecture, as well as laying the groundwork for the eventual opening of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine.

“It took me three years before I could persuade the (NSHE) board and the chancellor that law school was something we should do,” she says.

It is still the only law school in the state.

“The architecture program was there as a small program. We have made it a great school with its own faculty and facilities. And, we launched 50 graduate programs during my years there as president.

Such a successful career couldn’t end with his presidency – and it didn’t. After leaving administration, Harter, along with English professor Richard Wiley, co-founded the Black Mountain Institute, headquartered at UNLV, to promote literacy worldwide.

“When I found out I was stepping down from the presidency, I thought I could do it then. Just like (Southern Nevada business titan) Glenn Schaeffer, who had been a true proponent of the literary activity at UNLV,” says Harter. “We felt that there was no school in Nevada that really had a literary center that could be a shining light. He came to me and said, “I’m going to invest in it, if you can start something that we can work on.”

And that brought Carol Harter back to the young girl from Brooklyn who was first fascinated by the mysteries of Nancy Drew. The passion hasn’t faded, even as she relaxes at her and her husband’s summer retreat in San Diego, overlooking the sailboats gliding over Mission Bay.

“I’m in a book club,” she says. “It’s still a novel of one kind or another that I read every day, and so does my husband, so we are readers together. I am the same person.

Carol Harter makes Las Vegas — and Brooklyn — rightly proud.

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