Regents’ Distinguished Nevadans, Honorary Degree Announced

LAS VEGAS – The Nevada Board of Regents announced the recipients of the 2021 Distinguished Nevadan awards, the Nevada System of Higher Education’s most prestigious honor, and one honorary degree recipient that will be conferred at NSHE’s spring commencement ceremonies.

Honorary Degrees are awarded to people who have made significant contributions to the improvement of the quality of academic life and programs at one of NSHE’s eight institutions.

The College of Southern Nevada – Honorary Associate Degree

  • Jacqueline DennisJacqueline Dennis, who was the first of her family to attend college, graduated CSN in 2013 earning an Associate of Applied Science in Surgical Technology. She now acts as a Certified Surgical Technologist active in the trauma unit of a major hospital for the past seven years. Her selfless response during the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired others in the medical field. Apart from her own active position, Jacqueline has been instructing classes of clinical labs for the College of Southern Nevada’s Surgical Technology program in the Reno Division for the last four years, working to bring those interested in the career, into the workforce. Last year she continued to work in the OR (Operating Room) when others could not. She has helped countless COVID patients who needed care. When Las Vegas clinical sites were no longer taking students from CSN, Jackie made sure those who could travel to Reno were able to finish clinical rotations there. As well as mentoring her clinical lab students, she has also taught classes at Truckee Meadows Community College and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree from Nevada State College.

Distinguished Nevadans

The Distinguished Nevadan award recognizes prominent individuals who have made significant contributions to the cultural, economic, scientific, or social advancement of Nevada and its people.

This year’s Distinguished Nevadans include:

  • Jan Jones Blackhurst, nominated by Chair Mark W. DoubravaJan Jones Blackhurst is a long-time Southern Nevada business, political, philanthropic and community leader. She was the first woman mayor of the City of Las Vegas, before joining Caesars Entertainment, where she and her teams developed the industry’s first Responsible Gaming practices, advancing environmental stewardship, and advocating for important social issues, including the company’s Gender Equity Initiative. Committed to education, Ms. Blackhurst helped establish the International Gaming Institution Center of Excellence at UNLV, named Chief Executive in Residence at the UNLV International Gaming Institute, and serves as Chairwoman for the Public Education Foundation. She has earned numerous awards and accolades while serving on several boards, including the Las Vegas Stadium Authority and the Nevada Resort Association. In 2014, she was one of the first women to be inducted into the American Gaming Association (AGA) Gaming Hall of Fame.
  • Hannah M. Brown, nominated by Regent Amy J. CarvalhoHannah M. Brown, a long-time Las Vegan, attended Westside Grammar School and helped integrate Rancho High School in 1954. During her career in the aviation industry, Ms. Brown became Western Airlines first African American and female station manager. After Delta Air Lines purchased Western in 1987, she became their first as well. Upon her return to Las Vegas in the 1990s, she was elected President of the Urban Chamber of Commerce, a position she held for 8 years. In 2010, she was successful in gaining approval for a $4 million grant from the Centennial Committee to refurbish the Historical Westside Grade School which she attended.
  • Robert L. Crowell (posthumously), nominated by the full Board of RegentsRobert L. “Bob” Crowell was a native Nevadan, who was born in Tonopah and raised in Carson City. An attorney with the firm Kaempfer Crowell, he was a Vietnam War Veteran and retired Navy Captain. He was three times elected Mayor of Carson City and served 11 years on the Carson City School Board of Trustees. He also served as a member of the Colorado River Commission, which oversees Nevada’s allocation of water and power from the Colorado River. He also served as President of the Board of Indigent Defense Services. Bob earned his undergraduate degree in economics from Stanford University in 1967 and his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Hastings College of the Law in 1973.
  • Lew Eklund (posthumously) and JoAnn Eklund (posthumously), nominated by Regent Cathy McAdooLew Eklund and JoAnn Eklund were Nevada mining industry pioneers who founded the Eklund Drilling Company. The Eklunds, who were married for 63 years, were known as much for their philanthropy as their business leadership. Residents of Carlin, they helped fund various projects undertaken by the Carlin Senior Center, the Carlin Combined School, Elko County schools and students, as well as youth sports, to name a few. They have received numerous honors and accolades for their service and generosity, including the National Mining Hall of Fame, Northwest Mining Association Distinguished Service to the Minerals Industry Award, and the Nevada Citizens of the Year Award.
  • William McCurdy, Sr., nominated by Regent Laura E. PerkinsWilliam McCurdy, Sr. is an entrepreneur and owner of McCurdy & McCurdy Media Group, a political consulting and advertising firm, with his wife Billy since 1992. He built this company from the ground up and has used it to provide employment and mentorship in Southern Nevada, all the while pastoring churches across Nevada since 1978. Early in his career, he also served as a Constable in the Las Vegas Township. William graduated from Valley High School in Southern Nevada and attended Western Nevada College in Carson City. He has served on numerous boards, including the Citizens’ Advisory for Regional Transportation (RTC), Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, Mineral County Economic Advisory Committee, City of Las Community Block Grant Advisory Board and Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority Commissioner just to name a few.


The Nevada System of Higher Education, comprised of two doctoral-granting universities, a state college, four comprehensive community colleges and one environmental research institute, serves the educational and job training needs of Nevada. NSHE provides educational opportunities to more than 100,000 students and is governed by the Board of Regents.