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April 23, 2014

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HIGHER EDUCATION:

The lone candidate for chancellor

Highly experienced No. 2 man to Rogers, Klaich likely to rise

Image

SAM MORRIS / LAS VEGAS SUN FILE

Dan Klaich, right, vice chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, speaks with Chancellor Jim Rogers at a 2006 meeting.

Biography

  • Name: Daniel J. Klaich
  • Title: Executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer of the Nevada System of Higher Education
  • Background: Native Nevadan is a lawyer who was in private practice for almost 30 years. Served on the state Board of Regents from 1983 to 1997, including two terms as chairman.
  • Education: 1972 graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He received his law degree from the University of Washington School of Law in 1975, and a master’s in taxation from New York University in 1978.
  • Personal: Wife, Denise, is a 1973 graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno. They have four children and six grandchildren.

Beyond the Sun

A native Nevadan with deep ties to the state’s higher education system seems poised to become its next leader.

Seeking stability in a tumultuous time, the chairman and vice chairman of the system’s Board of Regents will recommend at the board’s June meeting that Dan Klaich, the system’s second-in-command, succeed Jim Rogers as chancellor this summer. Rogers, whose contract ends in June, is also backing Klaich, even while pointing out that he is in some ways untested.

“Being No. 1 is a different type of job than being No. 2, and we’ll see if he can stand the shots over the bow,” Rogers says of Klaich, who became the system’s chief counsel in 2004 and was promoted to executive vice chancellor soon after. “Only time will tell. I think he can ... You’ve got to be able to stand in there. You get hired for leadership, not laying brick. He’s laid a lot of brick.”

Higher education insiders including Regents Chairman Michael Wixom say conducting a costly national search for a replacement for Rogers makes no sense at a time when Nevada’s public colleges and Desert Research Institute must act quickly and decisively in the face of budget cuts.

Jane Nichols, vice chancellor of academic and student affairs, points out that the financial crisis would make it difficult to attract strong external chancellor candidates.

Jim Richardson, the Nevada Faculty Alliance’s lobbyist, puts it more bluntly: “We would be absolutely crazy not to make him chancellor at this junction. It would be the dumbest thing that ever happened. He’s earned his stripes and he knows the lay of the land, he knows the players, and I think he will be a very effective leader for the system.”

Wixom says Klaich, 59, a longtime lawyer, is the only candidate formally under consideration, though groups of three regents can nominate others.

Like Rogers, a multimillionaire businessman, Klaich would be an unconventional pick for chancellor because he is not an academic. But that’s where similarities between the two men end.

Klaich’s colleagues describe him as a master collaborator, a consensus builder eager to ensure everyone’s opinions are heard. He is calm and diplomatic.

Rogers’ style is more dictatorial, his temper, notorious. In typical fashion, for instance, he recently lashed out at the governor in a newspaper commentary, calling him “a greedy, uninterested, unengaged human being.”

As Rogers has publicly sparred with the governor, Klaich has quietly worked with legislators and the governor’s staff in maneuvering through the budget crisis.

Rogers’ relationship with regents has been tempestuous, with the chancellor lobbing public insults at some of his bosses and once donating $20,000 to a candidate running to unseat one board member.

As regents Vice Chairman Jason Geddes says, “I’m not sure Jim ever saw the board as his boss.”

But Klaich brings a different perspective to the relationship between chancellor and regents, having served on the board from 1983 to 1997, including two terms as chairman.

While Klaich would represent stability, his ascension to the top job would also bring change to the system.

Some people expect he would bring a renewed emphasis on bread-and-butter higher education issues such as graduation and retention rates, which did not improve much on Rogers’ watch.

Rogers has been lauded as a visionary, and his focus has been on big-picture issues: pursuing national recognition for the state universities, emphasizing private fundraising and pushing for public funding to revamp and expand the higher education system’s health sciences programs. Often, he set the agenda and left others to worry about the details.

As a result, some stakeholders say of the two men, the detail-oriented Klaich would be more adept at moving the system forward and keeping campus presidents accountable for making progress toward tangible, measurable goals. He says, for instance, “We can’t just say, ‘I want to be a research institute.’ ”

“I don’t see any problem with looking at the presidents of the research institutes and saying, ‘How are you doing? Are you getting more grants?’ ” Klaich says.

Despite the differences between the two men, Klaich says if he becomes chancellor, he will pick up where his predecessor left off. Rogers has worked to sell legislators, the business community and the public on the idea that a strong higher education system is integral to the health of a state looking to diversify its economy and climb out of a deep recession.

“My vision for the system is to make every institution within the system an institution of choice for young Nevadans,” Klaich says. “My vision is to provide a competent, educated, relevant workforce so that our economy can recover and thrive. My vision is that we take Nevada from a place with a basic service economy to a more diverse economy.

“What Jim has done more effectively than any chancellor I have seen is to inject higher education into the dialogue of every issue that faces the state,” Klaich says. “We have to capitalize on that.”

Besides his strong understanding of the higher education system’s challenges, Klaich’s work ethic has also impressed his bosses and co-workers.

As John Kuhlman, the system’s spokesman says, “He’s the guy that will send you e-mails on Saturday morning because he works around the clock.”

Rogers sees Klaich’s dedication to his job as a plus, but also cautions his second-in-command about the need to take a break once in a while.

“He worked so hard that he damn near ruined his health. That’s a concern of mine. And I’ve talked to Dan about that,” Rogers says. “You can’t be out there scrubbing the parking lot with a toothbrush. It just doesn’t work. I think he’s going to understand that as a leader, he can’t do all the work himself. And whether he’s capable of delegating, we’ll find out.”

Klaich’s devotion to Nevada’s public higher education stems in large part from his personal connection to it. He studied accounting at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he served as student body president before graduating in 1972.

After receiving a law degree from the University of Washington School of Law and a master’s in taxation from New York University, he returned to Nevada in 1978. Three of his four children attended UNR.

“This brings together everything that is important in my life,” Klaich says. “Education is all about the future of Nevada. I’m a native Nevadan. This state is all that matters to me. My kids went to school here. If we don’t support our schools and our institutions of higher education, we don’t have a future in this state. So what an opportunity for a person who has spent the greater part of his adult life being involved in higher education to have a chance to direct it and to assist others in leading it in a solid team effort.”

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