An assortment of hats, from cowboy hats to Wolf Pack athletics hats, filled the room Friday morning at the weekly Rotary Club of Reno Sunrise event at Lexie's Restaurant at the Siena Hotel Spa Casino.
The hats were in honor of the featured guest, Milt Glick, University of Nevada, Reno president.
Glick, who makes no apologies for the fact that he is follicle-challenged and wears a canvas hat in order to shade his pate from the pounding of Reno's sun, had to smile when he looked out at the room.
Since August, when he took office as Nevada's 15th president, his canvas hat has become his trademark.
Hats off to the ingenuity of the group of about 50 Rotarians who shared breakfast with Glick, and then listened to him speak about the future of the University.
"We thought we'd make President Glick feel right at home with the hats," said Reno attorney Ed Basl, whose two-gallon Stetson cut an imposing, "Bonanza"-like look.
Added Martha Green, president of the group: "It was my idea. Every time you see a picture of Dr. Glick, he's got a hat on."
Glick, never one to miss an opportunity to turn a humorous phrase or to toss out a quick quip, wryly noted that he could have easily replaced his canvas hat with a cowboy hat.
"I have one out in my car," he said. "Of course, that reminds me of what my assistant told me a while back. I said that (the cowboy hat) was too big for me." She said, "Don't worry, your head will grow into it."
Glick covered many subjects during his 35-minute talk on Friday morning, and shed some light on the Nevada's current legislative priorities. With the state grappling with budget cuts, he said the University will not be immune.
"Our worst-case scenario would be that we would have to eliminate $8 million of programs by July," he said. "It would be a huge loss, and it would take us a decade to recover."
Glick said that he was hopeful that the University wouldn't have to take such a significant hit. He said that although Nevada had failed to meet formula funding projections based on student enrollment, the institution has still continued to grow.
"The formula projections assumed skyrocketing growth instead of modest growth, and we have had modest growth," he said. "There are a number of reasons why we've only had modest growth ... from the founding of Nevada State College to the state stopping its funding for remedial education to our higher admissions standards to the changing of the Millennium Scholarship.
"There are consequences when you make these decisions, and as the budget crunch has come, the consequences are felt more dearly. I have five budget priorities for this session. The first priority is, don't cut our budget when we still have two percent growth. My second priority is, don't cut our budget with two percent growth. My third priority is, don't cut our budget with two percent growth. My fourth priority is, don't cut our budget with two percent. My fifth priority is — and maybe you're sensing a theme here — don't cut our budget.
"Those are real simple priorities. Even I can remember them."
Glick also told the audience that it's essential that the University continue to partner with the City of Reno in creating a stronger bond between the campus and the community.
"We've got to connect the campus better to the community," he said. "That four-block area, in and around 8th and 9th Streets on Virginia needs cafes, shops and other mixed use development. It will help our campus, and it will help downtown.
"I think it's going to happen ... but it is only going to happen through the private sector, working with the University and downtown."
Glick said he was optimistic economic development on other fronts was also moving in the right direction.
"We have to be a catalyst for economic development," he said. "To that end, we're going to merge our economic development effort with DRI. There will be a joint office between UNR, DRI and EDAWN. I really do feel that collaboration like this is our future."
Glick also said the University must continue to grow. He used the University of Nevada School of Medicine as an example. He noted that for years, the School of Medicine had a small entering class of about 50 students, which recently was increased to 62.
"It needs to be 100," he said. "Why? It's a good medical school, but it's too small to compete. The Mayo Clinic is the only one smaller. But we have 150 faculty at UNR versus 2,500 at Mayo. We have to get to 100."
Emphasizing Glick's point further, Reno banker Rob Hemsath spoke about his own experience. Hemsath, whose family dates back five generations in northern Nevada, talked about his nephew, a Nevada student with a 3.8 GPA who nevertheless did not gain admittance into the Medical School.
"He was passed over by his hometown school," Hemsath said, noting that during the talk Glick said one of the University's prime student recruitment efforts in the coming months and years is to ensure that all high school valedictorians in the state of Nevada make the University their school of choice. "I like what I'm hearing today, but Dr. Glick, you've got to make sure that the rubber hits the road. Talk sometimes isn't enough."
"I agree completely," Glick said. "That's a perfect example of why we've got to double the size of the medical school. It's too damn small."
Although Glick always enjoys talking academics, he did take one detour.
On Thursday, Kansas State lost its basketball coach when Bob Huggins bolted to his alma mater, West Virginia. Speculation on Friday had already begun in national publications — including The New York Times — that Wolf Pack head basketball coach Mark Fox could be the leading candidate to replace Huggins at Kansas State. Fox was an assistant coach under Tom Asbury at Kansas State for six seasons in the early 1990s.
"I want you all to know that last night at the basketball team's awards banquet," Mark Fox told us all, "And we're not going to live in Manhattan, Kansas,'" Glick said. "I think that's great news for the University."
Reaction to Glick's appearance was positive.
"Having Dr. Glick here was a good draw for us," Green said of the talk, which filled the banquet room at Lexie's, with about 50 people attending. "We usually have 30 or 35. It was a good message. I was really happy to hear that the University is going to pursue its strengths and try to make those strengths better. And, at the same time, to not try to do everything. I really appreciated that he said we've got to concentrate on what we can do well."
Green said she thought the group was receptive to Glick's message.
"We have lots of folks who are connected to the University in one way or another, so they were very glad to hear the plan, and I'm sure they were all very glad to hear him say, "And don't cut our budget,'" she said. "It may happen anyway, but at least he's digging in his heels.
"I'll tell you, this group can get restless very easily if the speaker isn't very good. But they were quiet ... they were listening closely to the things Dr. Glick had to say. It was a very effective talk."
Nevada's Johnson Makoba, the longtime chairman of the Department of Sociology, was also in attendance on Friday. Makoba said he had heard Glick speak several times, and each time he has come away impressed.
"People in the community may not know from time to time what is going on at the University," said Makoba, who since 1993 through his non-profit Foundation for Credit and Community Assistance has provided cash loans and education for rural women in his native Uganda. "Of course, the students, who interact regularly with the faculty and the campus, do know what's going on. To make the community aware of what is going on, and how they can either be a partner or benefit from that kind of relationship is key to what Dr. Glick was saying here. That interface is extremely important to the future of the community, and the University.
"There is an excitement to Dr. Glick. Not only in the idea of new leadership, but also in terms of the ideas that he's sharing with various groups, on and off campus."