I lost a good friend and colleague when Dr. Nasser Daneshvary died unexpectedly of a heart attack last week. Nasser was a teacher, scholar, economist, former department chair, former associate dean, former associate provost, former chair of the faculty senate, director of the LIED Institute for Real Estate Studies and a rock star at rallies to support UNLV. He was by his own account a street-fighter and by my account an excellent cook. He loved Rennae. It is hard for me to imagine seeing Rennae without Nasser, they were a true couple–each others’ biggest fan.
Every university has a few people who by their sheer will and unique character imprint themselves on the institution. Nasser gave his full measure of devotion to UNLV. He was everywhere: in the classroom, newspaper, and journals, at every meeting of substance, and in the middle of every controversy. Like Madonna, he only needed a first name…if you said “Nasser” people knew who your were talking about. My guess is some folks didn’t even know his last name.
It was impossible to be indifferent toward Nasser. He wouldn’t let you. He scared some people, drove everyone nuts at one point or another, and was only underestimated by fools. I confess that Nasser was on my list of seven people of whom I would only meet with two on the same day. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed meetings with Nasser, but conversations with him took a lot out of me. Meetings with Nasser were never light, airy affairs even when they involved liquor. He demanded your full attention.
My most memorable conversation with Nasser involved a discussion of the difference between being a “nice” and “good” guy. Nice guys, Nasser explained, tell people what they want to hear. Good guys tell people what they need to hear. Nice guys expect little of people. Good guys demand their best. Nice guys live by others’ values. Good guys live by their own values. Nice guys are liked. Good guys are respected. That discussion was meant to make me a better dean. I believe it did.
Nasser was kind. He held his friends close and would do anything he could for them. If he told you he would do something, it was money in the bank. He was one of my biggest supporters at UNLV and the only person who really understood Mike Clauretie. You couldn’t meet two more different people than Mike and Nasser, but they formed an effective professional partnership and personal friendship.
Nasser led a life of passion, not indifference. He changed an institution and left a legacy. It was a meaningful life lived on its own terms, without fear of failure. It was a life well lived. If you want to honor him, don’t send flowers: do something to make UNLV better.
I miss my friend Nasser. He was a good guy.