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Engelstad foundation revokes $14 million donation in light of UNLV president shake-up, criticizes regents

Michelle Rindels
Michelle Rindels

The Engelstad Family Foundation is revoking a $14 million donation it had made to the UNLV Medical School building project amid news that President Len Jessup is being pressured to leave the school.

Kris Engelstad McGarry told The Nevada Independent that her foundation had been discussing the donation for about a year and formally pledged the money about a month ago on condition that current leadership remain in place, but said that the recipients weren’t holding up their end of the bargain. The revocation was first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“We're a supporter of Len still,” she said. “We've gone through how many presidents? The continuing thread seems to be the board of regents. I don't know who they think they're going to attract to this job.”

Multiple sources confirmed to the Independent that Reilly evaluated Jessup in January and raised numerous issues with him, including practices at the dental school and fundraising and management at the medical school. When little improvement was seen, sources said, the regents prepared to call a “personnel session” where Jessup could potentially be voted out, but Reilly told the board he would handle the situation.

On Wednesday, Jessup sent a message to the UNLV community acknowledging tension with the regents and saying he was looking for new job opportunities.

Engelstad said she’s frustrated by an “antiquated” process that requires presidents to go through extensive public hearings — one that she thinks isn’t set up for success.

“We only gave the gift because of Len and Barbara,” she said, referring to UNLV Medical School Dean Barbara Atkinson. “My distrust is the situation that's in place. I didn't trust them to properly steward the money.”


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