Three Distinguished Nevadans to be honored during Friday afternoon’s Commencement ceremony

2014 honorees from northern Nevada include Gregory W. Ferraro, Keith L. Lee and James D. Santini; recipients recognized during University of Nevada, Reno advanced-degree ceremony

5/13/2014 | By: John Trent  |

The Distinguished Nevadan represents the most prestigious award conferred by the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education. It is bestowed upon individuals who have made significant achievements that have contributed to the cultural, scientific or social advancement of Nevada. Gregory Wright Ferraro, Keith Lee and James D. Santini will be honored as three of the Regents' 2014 Distinguished Nevadans during the University of Nevada, Reno's advanced-degree commencement ceremony in Reno at 4:45 p.m., Friday, May 16. Other recipients include Monte L. and Susan J. Miller, Dr. Raymond D. Rawson, Michael and Sonja Saltman, Carolyn M. Sparks and Bret Whipple, who will be recognized during other commencement ceremonies within the state. 

Gregory Wright Ferraro
Gregory Wright Ferraro, during a career that has spanned three decades, has had a profound influence on the policy, advocacy and quality of life in the state of Nevada.

Following graduation from Reno High School, Ferraro, a fourth-generation Nevadan, studied journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, graduating in 1985. He was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity, worked for the campus newspaper selling print advertising, was elected ASUN senator and served as president of the Blue Key Honor Society. He began his career in public service following graduation, when he joined U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt's staff in Washington, D.C., and served as assistant to the general chairman in Laxalt's office at the Republican National Committee. He then was public relations manager for R&R Advertising, and was hired in 1988 as an assistant to Robert Broadbent, director of aviation at McCarran International Airport. After serving as issue manager and spokesperson for Clark County, Ferraro oversaw the northern Nevada office of R&R Advertising. Over the next 12 years, he was president of the Government and Public Affairs division of R&R, establishing R&R's lobby practice and serving as senior advisor on numerous political campaigns, including those of Gov. Kenny Guinn and Attorney General Brian Sandoval, and as lead strategist for successful school bond campaigns in Washoe County. In 2004, Ferraro founded The Ferraro Group, which today has offices in Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City. That same year, Gov. Kenny Guinn appointed Ferraro to serve a four-year term on the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission, to which he was re-appointed and served as chairman. In 2010, Ferraro served as a senior consultant for Sandoval's successful bid for Governor.

In 2013 Ferraro was recognized by Campaigns & Elections national magazine as one of the U.S.'s top 500 influencers. He is currently a member of the Executive Advisory Committee of the E. L. Wiegand Foundation, is trustee emeritus of the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation and in 2008 was inducted into Junior Achievement's Northern Nevada Business Leaders Hall of Fame. Ferraro is a member of a group of prominent Nevadans who have sought to secure funding for the Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism's Robert Laxalt Distinguished Writers Program. He also helped spearhead the creation of the Jim Joyce Endowment to explore the relationships between politics, government and journalism.

Keith L. Lee
For more than a half century, Keith Lee's personal and professional achievements have been a testament to the value of service to one's community, university and state.

Lee's family settled in Nevada's Lincoln County in 1864. Service to the state of Nevada was ingrained from an early age for Lee, who can trace his family's involvement in public service to his grandfather's two terms as Lincoln County Clerk-Treasurer in the early 1900s and his father's two terms as State Controller during the governorship of Grant Sawyer. Lee attended public schools in Reno and Carson City, where he graduated from high school. He is a graduate of the University of Nevada, where he served as ASUN president in 1964-65, following in the footsteps of his father, also named Keith, who was ASUN president in 1932-33. Lee graduated, with honors, from the University of San Francisco School of Law. He has been a practicing attorney in Nevada since 1970 with an emphasis on business, gaming, regulatory and governmental affairs areas. 

Lee's professional career has also been one of versatility, as he has served in a number of different capacities in local and statewide political campaigns. He had a notable career as a lobbyist, beginning with the 1983 session of the Nevada State Legislature. He has also lobbied Nevada's Congressional Delegation since 1989.

Lee served 17 years as a member of the Nevada Board of Bar Examiners and six years as chair of the Committee on Character and Fitness. He has served as a member and chair of the Nevada Wildlife Commission, member of the Nevada Commission on Economic Development, president of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, member and chair of the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation, member and chair of the Children's Cabinet, chair of the Children's Cabinet Foundation, and member of the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Gap Scholarship Committee. Lee is a past recipient of the Nevada Alumni Association's University Service Award and was a member of the Century Campaign Cabinet. 

James D. Santini
James D. Santini's distinguished career in public service has been one of historic firsts and influential leadership that has helped improve the lives of all Nevadans. 

Born in Reno, Santini graduated from the University in 1959 with a bachelor's of science degree in education, and graduated from Hastings College of Law in 1962. Following service in the U.S. Army as an officer from 1963-66, Santini served as deputy district attorney for Clark County and was appointed the county's public defender, earning the distinction as one of the three most outstanding Public Defenders in the Nation. He served as justice of the peace for Las Vegas and was appointed Clark County district court judge, becoming the youngest judge to be appointed in Nevada's history. In 1974, Santini was elected to the U.S. Congress, serving as Nevada's only member in the House of Representatives from 1975-83. His role in Congress was substantial, as he chaired the Mines and Mining Subcommittee and was a member of the Oversight and Special Investigations Subcommittee, Public Lands Subcommittee, Interstate and Foreign Commerce Subcommittee, Transportation and Commerce Subcommittee and Select Committee on Aging, Housing and Consumer Interests. He also co-founded and chaired the U.S. Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus. The Tourism Caucus was the first of its kind in the House and produced, under Santini's chairmanship, another legislative first - the National Tourism Policy Act of 1981.  

Following his congressional career, Santini has become one of the most respected lobbyists in Washington. In addition to his role as legislative consultant for the National Tour Association since 1983, he also serves as legislative counsel for the United States Air Tour Association, as Policy Advisor for the National Park Hospitality Association and as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Institute of American Indian Arts. Santini's honors during his career in Congress include being named Outstanding Congressional Leader by the National Association of Counties and the Travel Industry of America's Man of the Year in Travel award in 1981. In 1993, Tour and Travel News recognized Santini as one of the industry's 25 most influential executives. In 1998, the United States Air Tour Association presented Santini with the Aviation Leadership Award. In 2005, NTA awarded him the Bob Everidge Lifetime Achievement Award.


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