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December 20, 2012
By John Trent
In an interview given a few days before his inauguration as the University of Nevada, Reno's 16th president in September, Marc Johnson made one thing perfectly clear.
It was the University, and not Johnson, that always needed to be the primary story in the minds of students, faculty and staff, not to mention the community which the institution serves.
"This is a great University because the people who are a part of it really believe in it," Johnson said. "As president, you always want the University's story to be told in that fashion - our students, faculty, staff, along with our alumni and friends, have all played such an important role in our success. This is really about them, and the great work and achievements they've all had. We've had good times, some challenging times, but throughout it all has been this incredible spirit of our campus.
"It's help lift us all."
Whether the quiet, low-key Johnson would agree with the assessment or not, his story also became one of the central passages of the University's narrative in 2012.
His selection as the University's 16th president by the Nevada System of Higher Education's Board of Regents in April, along with his inauguration ceremony on a sun-splashed September day on the Quad, have been chosen, in a vote of several campus media and communications professionals, as the Top Story of 2012 for the University.
Johnson, who was named interim president in spring 2011 following the death of President Milt Glick, was chosen by the Board of Regents over two other candidates following a national search in April.
At the time, during a public interview held at Lawlor Events Center, Johnson showed both sides of a personality that the campus had grown to know well since his arrival in 2008 as executive vice president and provost.
There was the lighter side of Johnson, who quipped at one point that although he wasn't the flashiest of candidates, he was a candidate who would "wear well." Later, on a more serious note, Johnson told the selection committee that he felt the University was unique and perhaps even "unusual" in that the institution has always had such a "tremendous sense of balance across our missions. We have a broader mission than most universities, and we do it well. What I've learned in my time here is that this University has people who are really resilient, who are committed to what we do and why it is so important. I've gained confidence in working with all of the people here. We all know we're in the same boat, and that we're in it for each other.
"That's why I've been very proud of all the great things our faculty, students and staff have done."
During his inaugural speech on Sept. 28, Johnson again spoke of the communal nature of the campus, and why he felt such a strong current of campus-wide collaboration was one of the institution's defining characteristics.
"As we move forward, it is our institutional pride and abiding sense of teamwork that excites me," Johnson said during his 23-minute-long remarks. "I promise to make you proud - proud of this University, and proud of all the people who make our University so special."
2. First Lady Michelle Obama visits campus
First Lady Michelle Obama was warmly received by a standing-room-only crowd on the University Quadrangle on the morning of Oct. 3. Flanked by about 100 University students and cheered on by a crowd estimated at 3,800, Mrs. Obama told the crowd that, "Don't let anyone else tell you different. Elections are always about hope."
3. Nevada Living Learning Community Opens
New buildings have opened with great fanfare on campus over the past several years, but with the opening of The Nevada Living Learning Community in August, a new era dawned on campus. The latest addition to the University's growing student-centered infrastructure welcomed its first student residents on Aug. 23. It's the first residence hall on campus to have dedicated classrooms and faculty offices, and it provides a centralized setting for the University's nine living-learning communities.
4. Kap's magic carpet ride continues
Colin Kaepernick's time at the University ended in the winter of 2010-2011. As quarterback for the Wolf Pack during that time he led Nevada to a stunning Mackay Stadium upset of nationally ranked Boise State, graduated with a degree in Business, and then, in January, capped a 13-1 season with a Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl victory in San Francisco over a rugged Boston College squad. It's a testament to Kaepernick's personality and strongly held personal values that, nearly two years later, the University and northern Nevada continue to hold him close. Kapernick's ascension as the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers has not only become of northern Nevada's top stories, it has made Kapernick part of a national sports conversation that promises, if anything, to continue to increase in the weeks, months and years ahead.
5. Senator William J. Raggio passes away
He was the last of a breed, a legislative lion who championed higher education in the Nevada State Senate like no other. When the news of the passing of Nevada's longest-serving State Sen. William J. Raggio at age 85 hit campus on the morning of Feb. 24, reaction was swift and heartfelt. This was a man who, after all, was not only a graduate of the University, but was someone who had literally used the campus as a playground while a youngster. Raggio grew up only a few blocks from campus on Valley Road. For the rest of his life, Raggio never forgot what the University had meant to him. Said President Emeritus Joe Crowley, who knew Raggio well and considered him a friend, "He was a consensus-builder in every way: Check your personal enmities at the door and let's sit down and do business. That was Bill's way. That was how he got it done."
6. University welcomes largest enrollment ever, most National Merits ever, reaches Top Tier status again
The University yet again reached all-time highs for enrollment and National Merit students on campus, and, for the third year in a row, was chosen by U.S. News & World Report in its "best colleges" rankings among the top tier of "best national universities."
7. University first library in nation to offer 3D printing campus-wide
In July, the DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library became the first academic library in the United States to make the leap to offer 3D printing and scanning as a library service to all students, enabling students in a multitude of disciplines to make plastic 3D models from a computer drawing for their research and studies.
8. Big gifts: Satres announce $5 million gift; Nell J. Redfield Foundation commits $1.6 million to School of Medicine; Redfield Foundation pledges $2 million to School of the Arts; $1.7 million donated to Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center; Mathewson supports entrepreneurship program with $1 million gift
2012 was the year of major donations to the University. Community benefactors targeted areas ranging from medicine to education, from arts, athletics and culture to libraries and budding entrepreneurship.
9. Engineering Dean Manos Maragakis visits White House
College of Engineering Dean Manos Maragakis, always a busy person, had an even more noteworthy year than normal in 2012. In the fall, Maragakis accompanied Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and several other state leaders in business and industry on an economic development mission to the Far East. In February, Maragakis was invited to the White House, where President Barack Obama, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Intel CEO Paul Otellini and the President's Council on Jobs announced the creation of a unique partnership to measure, evaluate and celebrate excellence in retention, graduation and diversity in engineering education. Maragakis and other key engineering deans from throughout the country will be involved with a national effort that will focus on producing more engineers from the nation's universities, as well as developing ways to make these engineers more globally competitive.
10. Secretary of Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits campus
During a town hall meeting on College Affordability and the Latino Community in September, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with Luis Fraga, a member of President Barack Obama's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, handled nearly two dozen questions and listened to some heartfelt commentary from northern Nevada's Latino community and members of the campus community. Duncan at one point said that although there were many challenges still facing the Latino community in finding college access and affordability, he was encouraged by the number of Latinos who see higher education as a viable option to increase their education and their chances for a successful career. "The past two years, we've had a 25 percent increase in enrollment in college in this country," the youthful-looking secretary said. "It's remarkable. We have to make sure that enrollment translates to graduation." Then he pointed to the crowd, which numbered dozens of Latino Washoe County School District students. "I want you guys to take those numbers to a different level," he said.
Others receiving votes:
USAC's thirtieth anniversary; Canoes of concrete to race in national meet at University; Pack officially joins Mountain West Conference; Fremont Cannon stays blue for eighth straight year; Pack baseball coach Gary Powers notches 900th career win; Bill Nye The Science Guy brings his science to University; University students shining in entrepreneurship competitions; Physics professor's mentorship contributes to science phenom; Reynolds School of Journalism completes renovations; Professor leads $14 million DOE grant for water-wise biofuel crops; University researcher supports harvest eating crawdads to help Tahoe ecosystem; Celebrating 50 years of the Reno Jazz Festival; University to sign 21 Nevada Scholars at ceremony; A future runs through Reno; Educator "writes book" on teaching math; Engineering graduate students bring energy research into K-12 classrooms with $1.2 million NSF grant.