NSHE Regents’ Distinguished Nevadans, Honorary Degrees Announced


The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents announced the recipients of the 2024 Distinguished Nevadan Award, the most prestigious award conferred by the Board, and four honorary degrees that will be conferred at NSHE’s spring commencement ceremonies.

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:

  • Joe Brown, Nominated by Regent Byron Brooks– Joe Brown developed the Keystone Corporation to preserve free-market principles and economic prosperity for the state of Nevada. Brown is a former appointee of President Ronald Reagan to the State Justice Institute and The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the United States. He has served as chairman or director of many business, civic, and charitable organizations, including the Nature Conservancy, the Department of Wildlife, the Nevada Development Authority, the Nevada Athletic Commission, Nellis (AFB) Support Team, the Catholic Community Services Board, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and the founder of the Nevada Military Support Alliance. Brown is the only person in Nevada history who has been appointed to all three of the following commissions: Fish and Game (Wildlife Commission); Athletic Commission; and Gaming Commission.
  • Dan Reynolds, nominated by Regent Heather Brown – Dan Reynolds is a Grammy-winning musician and lead singer/songwriter for the rock band Imagine Dragons. A native of Las Vegas, Reynolds is not only a renowned musician but also a dedicated advocate for philanthropy and social causes. Throughout his career, Reynolds has used his platform to amplify important societal issues, particularly mental health awareness, addiction recovery, and the promotion of equal rights. In addition to his musical achievements, Reynolds is a co-founder of the Tyler Robinson Foundation, a Nevada-based 501(c)3 organization that has raised an impressive $15 million and provided invaluable assistance to over 10,000 pediatric cancer families. Additionally, his documentary “Believer” has contributed to fostering understanding and acceptance within the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Margaret Cavin, nominated by Regent Carol Del Carlo Margaret Cavin, a proud Native Nevadan born in Hawthorne,  is recognized as a distinguished figure in both the construction industry and the community. As a partner in J&J Mechanical since its founding in 1982, Cavin has overseen the installation of mechanical systems in numerous schools, government buildings, and properties throughout Northern Nevada. She was appointed to the Nevada State Contractors Board in 2000 and has continuously served under multiple governors. Additionally, she co-founded the non-profit organization Friends of ACE High School (FACE), which has raised over $1 million to support ACE High School. In 1996, Cavin made history as the first female president of the Nevada Chapter of the Associated General Contractors (AGC). Cavin’s contributions to education include her involvement in establishing the Post Baccalaureate program in Construction Management at the University of Nevada, Reno.
  • Doris D. Dwyer, Ph.D., nominated by Vice Chair Jeffrey S. Downs – Dr. Doris Dwyer has dedicated her life to serving others in Churchill County and throughout Nevada. As a professor at Western Nevada Community College for over thirty-five years, she pioneered distance learning methods to ensure education accessibility for rural students. Dr. Dwyer’s commitment to education extended beyond the classroom. She played a key role in establishing Native American history courses and received numerous teaching awards for her expertise. Outside academia, Dr. Dwyer served on various boards including the Churchill County Library and Museum boards and was active in organizations providing scholarships to local students. Her contributions were recognized with awards such as Community Woman of the Year. On a statewide and national level, Dr. Dwyer represented Nevada on historical committees, ensuring the state had a voice in important issues.
  • Camille Ruvo, nominated by Regent Stephanie Goodman – Camille Ruvo is a dedicated philanthropist and leader, known for her unwavering commitment to bettering the lives of others in Nevada. As Vice-Chairwoman of Keep Memory Alive, she spearheads development, event planning, and fundraising efforts for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. With over 20 years of service to her community, Camille has made significant contributions to various charitable organizations in Las Vegas. Ruvo has coordinated major fundraising initiatives for educational institutions such as the Meadows School, Alexander Dawson, and Bishop Gorman High School. Her volunteerism extends to serving on the Andre Agassi Capital Campaign Board and as President of the Catholic Charities executive board, where she dedicated six years of service. Ruvo’s philanthropic endeavors have earned her recognition from esteemed organizations such as The Woodrow Wilson Foundation, The Heart of Hope Foundation, Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, and the Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada. She is proud of her role as wife to Larry Ruvo, mother to Lauren and Brianna, and stepmother to Nicole.
  • Russell Hurlburt, Ph.D., nominated by the full Board of Regents – Dr. Russell T. Hurlburt is a distinguished professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), recognized for his outstanding contributions to higher education and scientific research. Dr. Hurlburt’s pioneering work focuses on exploring inner experience, including thoughts, feelings, and sensations. As the originator of the Descriptive Experience Sampling method, Dr. Hurlburt utilizes innovative techniques such as random beepers and intensive interviews to provide qualitative descriptions of inner experiences. His research, spanning six books and numerous articles, delves into understanding inner experience across various populations, including individuals with diagnoses such as bulimia, anxiety, schizophrenia, borderline personality, and Asperger’s syndrome. Beyond his groundbreaking research, Dr. Hurlburt is also an accomplished educator, having received numerous honors and awards for his teaching excellence at UNLV.
  • Carmelo Urza, Ph.D., nominated by the full Board of Regents – Dr. Carmelo Urza is the founder of the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC). Established in 1983, USAC originated from an informal exchange between the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of the Basque Country. Under Dr. Urza’s leadership, USAC has grown to offer over 50 programs in 25 countries, providing immersive experiences that foster global citizenship and cross-cultural understanding. Dr. Urza’s vision and dedication have enabled over 10,000 students to participate in USAC programs, with a significant number hailing from Nevada institutions. He has championed collaboration within the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) and encouraged early exposure to study abroad opportunities in high schools. His legacy continues to enhance the reputation of Nevada’s higher education system and promote soft diplomacy through academic exchanges.

Honorary Degrees

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.

Nevada State University – Honorary Master’s Degrees

  • Kelly Maxwell, a native Las Vegan, is the Executive Director of Baby’s Bounty, dedicated to providing essentials for newborns. She spearheaded the Baby Bundle program, distributing 3 million diapers and 6 million wipes to 40,000 Nevada families. Maxwell’s Diapers for Diplomas initiative, in partnership with NSHE institutions, provided 348,000 diapers to parenting students. Her leadership extends to advocacy efforts, including passing SB428 to remove sales tax on diapers and active involvement with local organizations including Leaders in Training, Project Marilyn, and Serving our Kids.
  • Sandra Douglass Morgan, a native Las Vegan, is the President of the Las Vegas Raiders and a revered community leader. Recognized for her commitment to Nevada businesses, education, and supporting communities of color, she has received numerous accolades including the Distinguished Service Alumni Recipient from UNLV Boyd School of Law and the Corporate to Community Connector award from the National Urban League Young Professionals. Douglass Morgan’s leadership extends to serving on the Board of Trustees for the UNLV Foundation and as Vice Chair of the Super Bowl LVIII Host Committee.
  • Federico Zaragoza, Ph.D. is the President of the College of Southern Nevada (CSN), leading one of the nation’s largest multi-campus higher education institutions. With a focus on student success, he has facilitated pathways for students to pursue careers in healthcare and various fields across Nevada. Under his leadership, CSN has trained a significant portion of Nevada’s nurses and forged partnerships with over 350 local businesses and organizations, providing students with invaluable real-world experiences. Dr. Zaragoza’s expertise extends internationally, and his collaborations have strengthened transfer practices with Nevada State University, enhancing student support.

College of Southern Nevada – Honorary Associate Degree

  • Kenneth Evans is a retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel, respected community leader, and longtime president of the Urban Chamber of Las Vegas. He is a former member of CSN’s Institutional Advisory Council, advocating for local underserved communities to continue education. He has a civil engineering degree from the USAF, an MBA, is a graduate of Leadership Las Vegas, and assists diverse small business owners in pursuing procurement opportunities in new, emerging, and existing markets.