What’s big, bold and blue all over? 2010’s top stories

Top 10 campus stories of 2010 reflect a decidedly triumphant Nevada blue.

12/30/2010 - By: John Trent
Fans cheer at the Nevada/Boise Game Fans cheer at the Nevada/Boise Game

The University of Nevada, Reno campus has always been a bastion of blue.

In 2010, however, the campus turned an even deeper shade of blue. Accomplishments, as evidenced by the Top 10 stories of 2010, were of the special variety -of the type that pulls the community that much closer to the campus.

Here is a list of the Top 10 stories of 2010, as chosen by members of the University's Media Relations and Integrated Marketing departments.

No. 1: Wolf Pack turns Boise blue with stunning win.

There's that color again. It was Wolf Pack blue versus Boise State orange when Nevada, heavy underdogs, met the third-ranked Broncos on the day after Thanksgiving at Mackay Stadium. The first half went entirely to form, with Boise and Heisman Trophy finalist Kellen Moore cruising to a 24-7 halftime lead. Then something magical, at least from the Nevada perspective, began to happen. Nevada rallied back behind the passing of its own talented quarterback, senior Colin Kaepernick, as well as the running of bowling-ball sized senior running back, Vai Taua. It took two missed Boise State field goals, and by the time the ice had finally settled on the field on a frigid northern Nevada night, the Wolf Pack came away with an improbable 34-31 upset victory. The win was tabbed by many national sports outlets as the game of the year in college football. Said Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault afterward: "It is the greatest victory this university has ever had, I can tell you that."

No. 2: Record number of National Merit students on Nevada campus.

Just as the Wolf Pack football team rose rapidly in the national football rankings, the number of National Merit Scholars on the campus continued to grow, to a record number by the fall 2010 semester. At that time, 38 National Merits were on the Nevada campus. Much of the success of the effort had to do with a concerted strategy to recruit the best and brightest minds in Nevada. National Merit Scholar Sara Beckman, who was honored along with a couple of her fellow Wooster High School graduates in May during a University-sponsored "signing day" ceremony, summed up the University's recruiting effort well. "Instead of struggling to pay off debts, I'm going to be struggling with what to do with all that money," she said of her choice to attend Nevada over Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.  "I think that's a nice problem to have. UNR is just so loyal to its locals. They're helping me out so much (with a National Merit scholarship). I thought it would be the wisest choice."

No. 3: Davidson Math and Science Center opens; Center for Molecular Medicine opens (tie).

The campus has seen many new buildings open in recent years, but the opening of the Davidson Mathematics and Science Center and the Center for Molecular Medicine during the summer helped showcase two aspects of the campus: cutting-edge student classroom experience and a continued focus on the benefits of faculty research. In the case of the Davidson Mathematics and Science Center, the 105,000-square-foot building represented the first capital project opened on campus devoted to the natural sciences since 1972. It is estimated that 80 percent of the student body will have at least one class in the center. The Center for Molecular Medicine was a quantum step forward for the University, as it was the first new medical research facility built at the School of Medicine in nearly 30 years. The Center for Molecular Medicine houses portions of the microbiology, pathology and physiology and cell biology departments and also serves as the headquarters for the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease. With the center's August grand opening, the state-of-the-art facility doubled the medical school's research and laboratory space.

No. 5: Wolf Pack accepts bid to Mountain West Conference.

The events in August that led to the Nevada athletic program accepting a bid to join the Mountain West Conference still seem like a bit of a whirlwind. Yet, from the perspective of University President Milt Glick and Athletic Director Cary Groth during a press conference held on a warm August evening, the move couldn't have come at a more critical juncture in the University's history. Groth, in a lighter moment that summed up the evening well, asked the assembled media the following: "Can I ask you a question? What do you think of this decision?" The applause that followed was certainly affirmation that the move, long anticipated, was clearly welcomed.

No. 6: Most-ever graduates at spring 2010 Commencement.

In a year of milestones, the 1,997 students who received degrees during May's Spring Commencement was more than any particular family's Kodak moment. For the University, it was the most ever graduates for a commencement ceremony. Further, it was affirmation that as enrollment had grown, so too had the effort by the institution to ensure that more students were graduating.

No. 7: University surpasses 17,000 students in enrollment.

In the days preceding the opening of classes in August, the University opened two major buildings, found out it was now among the "top tier" of schools in the U.S. News& World Report annual rankings and announced it was joining a new athletic conference.  A few weeks later, however, the biggest bang of all might've been the news that for the first time in Nevada's more than 130-year history, enrollment had surged beyond 17,000 students. The University also announced its largest freshman class ever of more than 2,700 students.

No. 8: New Muscular Dystrophy drug discovered by Medical School faculty.

Dean Burkin, an associate professor of pharmacology in the School of Medicine, found promising test results that could protect individuals from the severe muscle damage associated with Muscular Dystrophy. Burkin's work, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was featured in the 2010 Better World Report, a compendium of inspirational stories from academic research that positively impact quality of life. The University's Tech Transfer Office licensed the patent for Burkin's discovery, and a Boston biotech company, Prothelia, was preparing to make a human version of the protein that Burkin discovered for further testing and clinical trials.

No. 9: Reynolds School of Journalism alum Parlette, author of "Alicia's Story," passes away.

Her writing had grabbed the readers of the San Francisco Chronicle first. Later, as Reynolds School of Journalism (RSJ) graduate Alicia Parlette continued to chronicle her struggle with a rare form of cancer, her experiences became the source of a book as well as one of the highest forms of recognition RSJ could bestow when she was named recipient of the prestigious writing honor, the Robert Laxalt Distinguished Writer award. Parlette, 28, passed away on April 22 following her five-year fight with cancer. "Alicia's Story," the combination of newspaper articles, blog postings and book, as they all came to be known, grabbed national attention and made Parlette a role model for thousands of other individuals and families dealing with cancer. "The story," she said once, "at its heart, was a gift to me."

No. 10: University receives $1.2 million for National Geothermal Institute; It's top tier for University in U.S. News rankings; 110-foot concrete bridge withstands 8.0 earthquake simulation; $18 million awarded for earthquake engineering laboratory expansion.

Four different stories tied for 10th place. If there was a common thread running through each one, it was the notion that in 2010 achievement on campus was constantly reaching notable levels. For the first time ever, the University had entered the top tier in the U.S. News & World Report "Best Colleges" rankings, thanks not only to student achievement, but to exceptional milestones in research (the College of Engineering's efforts in earthquake engineering made headlines all year long) or in preparing the state for a more sustainable, diversified economy. The National Institute for Geothermal Science and Technology will attract students, professors and industry professionals from around the country to learn everything from the basics to the latest in geothermal energy production with a series of short courses and other curriculum.

Other stories receiving votes:

College of Business releases economic outlook survey results; Books in the home as important as parents' educational level; Nevada ranks among top universities for Peace Corps volunteers; Best-ever showing for grad programs in U.S. News & World Report; Reno Arch turns Wolf Pack blue; Video game accessibility project to help blind children exercise; Students make a difference in the lives of young women; "Outcasts United" author to present at Nevada campus; Persistent paddlers; Dean's Future Scholars has impact; "Big Fish" researcher Zeb Hogan featured on National Geographic; Nevada professors collaborate on California Agriculture Field Guide; Scott Mensing wins Nevada Professor of the Year; "All 4 Kids" program awarded $1.1 million; Students shine in Governor's Cup; Family Storyteller program wins national award; Nevada researchers find receding permafrost in Siberian Arctic; Students honored as families' first graduates; Glick stresses partnership at national economic development conference.


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