Fifty years earlier, Philadelphia-born Jerome Vallen was hired to head a new hotel administration department at a start-up university in the shadows of the Las Vegas Strip. This was a tall order, given the program’s virtual obscurity on a school going through growing discomforts. However this son of a restauranteur wasn’t to be prevented.
With his particular perseverance and beauty, Dean Vallen chipped away at every barrier he came across, promoting an unmatched alliance with the hotel industry, battling for– and winning– the school’s autonomy, and offering a new instructional model that spawned an era of hospitality super stars.
Here’s a conversation with the male who began everything.
Exactly what do you remember about those initial days and weeks after you initially landed here?
I started work July 1, 1967. My other half, Flossie, and I showed up three weeks previously to buy a home. We had 4 kids, and they were all quite young. In those days, the city remained in insolvency due to the fact that they had closed the Atomic Screening Area, and there were lots and dozens of homes for sale. We got friendly with the motel owner where we were staying, and he took me to the bank. The [lender] threw open a cabinet with numerous keys, and he stated, “You desire a home? Choose one.”
Exactly what was the UNLV school like at that time?
It wasn’t very much of a campus. There were 2 structures at the front. We were housed with fine arts, service, foreign language, and education in Grant Hall, and at that time it was just myself and two other faculty members, utilizing a great deal of part-time individuals from the Strip. For years, we utilized members from the hotel market for faculty because we had more trainees than we could get the school to purchase professors for. And for the first 4 years, we were supported by the hotel community [the Nevada Resort Association]
And now, 50 years later, the college is lastly getting its own structure. What are thoughts about that?
I believe [Dean Stowe Shoemaker] has done a good task. For him to be able to accomplish that … that’s truly terrific. Remember that when the structure [Beam Hall] was given to the 2 colleges (Hotel and Company), the campus was little and young, and it was just a question of economics. They had a huge building, and they had to fill it. So they just put the 2 colleges therein. We arrange of had an affinity with service– however likewise a disaffinity. We had a lot of arguments.
. Exactly what were these arguments about? We wanted to get spun out [of the Division of Organisation] as we grew. Business College wished to keep their number of trainees, certainly to their benefit. And that was a very distressing time for the whole school. There was a fair bit of unpredictability and real drama– that’s a good word to use. It took some nitty gritty work prior to we had the ability to be successful, however we did.
Why were trainees initially attracted to the program?
The internships in the hotels– that was something that nobody else had. Once again, we came with cash from the hotels, so the hotels were devoted instantly to our success. Then the hotels took the interns, and we turned: Everyone remained in housekeeping this week, everybody was in food purchasing next week, everyone was in bells the next week, so that every hotel on the Strip had an intern or 2. It was a distinct location, no concern about it.
What kind of trainees were you wanting to bring on board?
Those who had actually completed their partner’s degree and ideally had experience in the market. I understood that a person of the problems that junior university student had was that they had no location to move since the few four-year [hospitality] schools that were around in those days– Cornell, Florida, Texas, Denver, and Michigan State– had more students than they needed, and they wouldn’t take transfers. Since I had actually come out of the junior college programs where transfers were crucial, we began to take the transfers. That’s how the population of the program flourished right now.
Early on, what was your most significant challenge as dean?
Getting the rest of campus to acknowledge us as an academic grouping. There was a lot of early tension. I keep in mind there was a fellow called Bob Smith who was the dean of the sciences, who was a huge advocate and actually good man. And he was worried, for example, that we were going to teach food science. That would have been a big conflict with the Science College. Eventually, we would have not achieved success if it had not been for supporters like Bob, Donald Moyer [the university’s first president], and Jerry Crawford [the university’s vice president], because a hotel program was sort of the reverse to some of the arts and letters individuals.
Exactly what were some other challenges you faced?
It was extremely frightening at the start due to the fact that we met with the unions, and they were concerned that we were going to put students into the hotels who were not unionized. We had a few great luncheons and finally convinced them that these were all non-paid internships. So, in the end, we got friendly, and the union members became strong fans of the program. They would be available in and serve as visiting professor for us. It exercised rather well.
Throughout your 22-year tenure as dean, which accomplishments make you most happy?
We finished some fantastic young people. Whenever we have among the dinners that I go to, and I see these men and women, I’m proud. When I was dean, our secretary was a female named Joan Reynolds. She was just a lovely individual. Joan let anybody who wanted to see me, see me. That was the guideline we had. Trainees would come in, and we would talk. It killed a great deal of time, however it deserved it. I loved the students.