In depth: Bill Boyd leaves his mark on UNLV law school

28 January 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- When Bill Boyd put up the initial seed money to get the state's first accredited law school off the ground, the idea was to ensure that Nevada students could stay home and earn a law degree.

Boyd didn't realize how close to home the impact would be felt.

Several Boyd Gaming Corp. employees and family members of employees have graduated from the UNLV Boyd School of Law since the it opened in 1998. The school was fully accredited by the American Bar Association in 2002.

Boyd donated $5 million to get the school off the ground. Don Snyder, who was president of Boyd Gaming at the time but was also a member of the UNLV Foundation, convinced his boss to increase the donation to $30 million in order to ensure the law school's healthy continuation.

"It didn't take much because of the tremendous passion Bill has for creating a law school," Snyder said. "Bill has a tremendous passion for the law. He's been a tremendous friend not only to the law school, but to the university. The Boyd name touches many aspects and parts of the university."

Boyd graduated from the University of Utah School of Law in 1957. His out-of-state experience stuck with him.

"The law school is probably the thing I'm personally most proud of," Boyd said. "I had to go out of state and I worked here in the summer. I know the financial strain it involves for a lot of kids."

One aspect Boyd requested was for the UNLV law school to offer evening classes, so gaming industry employees could have a more flexible schedule.

Richard Morgan, the law school's first dean who retired last year, met Boyd when he first interviewed for the position. Morgan, who now works as an attorney for the Lionel Sawyer Collins law firm in Las Vegas, said ensuring Nevada students had their own school was of primary importance to Boyd.

"He's the ideal supporter. He doesn't try to influence the operation and he doesn't tell us what to do," Morgan said. "He just wanted a good school."

Boyd said one side benefit has been the number of company employees who have attended the school. The most notable company graduate might be former Stardust showgirl Aki, who was dubbed "Showgirl for the 21st Century" back in the mid-1990s. Today, she's Akee Levin, an attorney with Morris Pickering Peterson & Trachok.

Irma Morales, who spent 16 years as a hostess at Tony Roma's inside the Stardust before the casino was closed, used to visit with Boyd when he came into the restaurant for lunch or dinner. She told him about her son, Jorge Morales, who wanted to become an attorney.

"Mr. Boyd was very encouraging. He told me UNLV had a very good law school," said Irma Morales, who now works as a buffet server at The Orleans, another Boyd property.

Jorge Morales attended the Boyd School of Law. Today, he's an associate general counsel for Boyd Gaming. He met Boyd a few times before he attended law school

"I was happy to stay in town and go to law school," Jorge Morales said. "It's tremendous to see the support Mr. Boyd has given to the university and the law school."


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