Celebrating Fifty Years

William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration
William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration
William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration located in Frank and Estella Beam Hall

Close collaboration between educators and representatives of the resort industry has enabled the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration to flourish over the years in the "living laboratory" of Las Vegas. In the mid-1960s, Nevada Southern's Division of Business began offering a few classes in hotel administration. University officials hired a consultant, Howard Meek, retired dean of Cornell University's hotel school, to develop a similar program, and he brought in Jerome J. Vallen, a Cornell graduate with extensive experience in hotel management.

Establishing the College

Initially funded by the Nevada Resort Association, the hotel program began with 16 students in 1967, with Vallen serving as director. A year later, 120 students were enrolled, and the program became a department. By 1969, the program's growth led to the establishment of the College of Hotel Administration, offering a bachelor's degree, and in 1975, Vallen became dean. Over the years, Vallen was pivotal in developing the college's national reputation, raising funds, and enhancing the curriculum.

Building Bridges to the Industry

In the late 1980s, the college created departments—food and beverage management, tourism and convention administration, and hotel management—and added a master's degree, a hospitality research and development center to build more bridges to the industry, and an office of external affairs for fundraising and outreach. At the end of the decade, the Holiday Corporation and William Harrah's widow donated $5 million to the college, which was then renamed the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, in honor of the legendary northern Nevada casino owner.

In 1989, after 22 years of service to the university, Vallen stepped down, remaining on the faculty to pursue teaching and research. Under his successor, David J. Christianson, the college soon added a doctoral program and created the International Gaming Institute, a source of information and training for the gaming industry. A donation of more than $6 million from Stan Fulton, chairman of Anchor Gaming, led to the construction of a building in his name, complete with conference rooms, food and beverage facilities, and a gaming laboratory.

Continued Growth

Arriving in 1998, the current dean, Stuart H. Mann, has overseen the college's continued growth, with almost 2,500 students from 42 states and 39 countries enrolled in various undergraduate and graduate programs such as lodging, food and beverage, meetings and events, professional golf, and gaming management.

The dual master of business administration/master of science in hotel administration program is designed for students who aspire to become business leaders in hotel administration. An executive online program enables industry professionals to pursue a master of hospitality administration at their own pace. A doctorate in hotel administration is aimed at students who want to teach hospitality management at the university level. In 2006, the college began offering its bachelor's degree program in hospitality management in Singapore, the university's first international campus.

Generous Donors

The college has benefited greatly from generous donors over the years. Eight hotel college donors belong to UNLV's Palladium Society for contributions of over $1 million: the Ace Denken Company, which donated $2 million in 1992 to establish a doctoral program and create a research chair; Sam and Mary Boyd, and their son Bill, the builders of Boyd Gaming; Stan Fulton; Verna Harrah; Harrah's Entertainment; International Game Technology; and Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada.

Successful Alumni

From the beginning, the college has emphasized real-world experience. Professors have extensive industry qualifications, and students are required to complete an internship and 1,000 related work hours to round out their experience. The tradition of building close relationships with the Las Vegas resort industry and the international hospitality industry has helped graduates consistently get top job offers.

The college's many accomplished alumni include:

  • Paula Eylar, '89 B.S., '97 M.B.A., vice president of internal audit, Boyd Gaming
  • Guy Fieri, '90, 2006 winner of the Food Network's "Next Food Network Star" reality competition and star of the shows "Guy's Big Bite" and "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives"
  • Bill Hornbuckle, '84, president and chief operating officer, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino
  • Chuck Lehman, '71, president, Fresh and Ready Foods in Southern California and Las Vegas
  • George Maloof, '88, chief executive officer and president, Palms Casino Resort
  • Bill McBeath, '87, president and chief operating officer, Bellagio
  • Cynthia Kiser Murphey, '80 B.S., '95 M.S., senior vice president of human resources, MGM MIRAGE
  • Bill Paulos, '69, principal, Cannery Casino Resorts
  • Scott Sibella, '88, president and chief operating officer, MGM MIRAGE
  • Jung-Ho Suh, '82, chairman, Ambassador Hotel Group

Faculty Research

College faculty members produce a range of innovative research:

  • Assistant Professor Bo Bernhard is conducting research on whether the world's first widely used responsible-gaming device will effectively help people, including those with gambling problems, control their behavior.
  • Associate Professor Christine Bergman has conducted extensive research on the advancement of analytical chemistry methods used in the development of rice with improved cooking, processing, and nutritional properties.
  • Assistant Professor Kathryn Braun-La Tour has investigated how people's earliest and defining memories of products can be used as a tool to help managers more fully understand consumers' relationships to their products.
  • Associate Professor Cheri A. Young has researched the extent to which Las Vegas residents behave as tourists when hosting visiting family and friends, and the hidden economic impact of residents' "tourism" spending.
  • Assistant Professor Billy Bai has examined the impact of website development on customer satisfaction and purchase intentions.
  • Professor Zheng Gu has researched the impact of institutional ownership on casino firm performance.
  • Associate Dean for Academic Research and Professor Seyhmus Baloglu has investigated the brand image of Las Vegas as a convention venue destination.

Looking Ahead

Plans are now under way for INNovation Village—comprising an on-campus hotel; restaurant; and related retail, conference center, and academic building—which will allow students and faculty to design, direct, and participate in advanced industry research.

In the years ahead, the college will continue to pursue its mission: to ignite the passion of its faculty and students for learning, discovery, and change in an ethical and collaborative environment that results in quality research, educational innovation, and meaningful service to its constituents.


1967 - Jerome J. Vallen, director and dean (1975)
1989 - David J. Christianson
1998 - Stuart H. Mann