Nasser

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.

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11 thoughts on “Nasser

  1. I’m sorry for your loss. It’s incredible the impact one conversation can have on our lives. I met a former student from Cambridge University a couple of months ago at my job. We simply had a discussion about life (relationships/politics/economics/philosophy/etc). We talked about mistakes/adversity/desperation and how they are a necessary for your growth as an individual. Then he finally told me something that I’ve always known, but that no one ever said to me personally. That is to simply do what you love because you will quickly realize that when people do their work with passion it stops being work and becomes an extension of themselves. More importantly, when people see a person who enjoys their craft it becomes contagious to the people around them. At that point in my life, heading into my junior year as a economics major, I needed that conversation. It came at the most opportune time and really reminded me that I love what I study and perhaps one day my passion for the subject will spark something in someone else.

    • Thanks Jayson:

      Doing what you love is the single most important thing. You are absolutely right about this. It is very very difficult to be great at something you don’t enjoy. I see this far too often. Life is short. It is important to do what you love.

  2. Hi Paul, well said. Nasser’s death leaves a big hole. It has been a difficult week. When I asked Rennae whether she has informed Nasser’s family in Iran she said no and asked if I would call. I said I would. She then emailed me phone numbers. I needed to inform Nasser’s sister (Shaheen) and his son (Arash). Nasser was very close to his sister. He would often talk about her. She broke down hearing the news and could not go on. I told her son to call me back when she had calmed down. I wanted to tell her about Nasser and what he meant to his friends, his colleages, and his university. I knew this would help given they knew so little of that. They called back about an hour later and I talked with her. It was a difficult call, as you can imagine. Next day I called Arash. I have called them a couple of times since. It all seems unreal!

    I hope all is well with work and else. Let me know how you like the new place, when you have a minute. Regards, Reza

  3. Hi Paul, What a honest and fitting description of Dr. Daneshvary. Evryone who knew him will miss him deeply. His attention to detail and honesty were appreciated by all who truely knew him.

    Everyone here asks about yu daily. I hope that you and your family are doing well. Anna D

  4. Dear Paul,
    My dad has lots of friends. One of them is Paul. Lots of websites and weblogs talk about my father, but the friendliest is yours. Here I feel comfortable and I decided to write and as a result have some connection a least with one of Nasser’s friends. I’m in Iran and here I really want to thank you guys. The way that you talk about him and gathering for his memorial, he has a well travel. I really miss him and THE MORE I READ ABOUT HIM, THE MORE I REALIZE WHAT I LOST.
    Arash Daneshvary
    .

    • Dear Arash, I am very sorry that you lost your father. I worked with him on many projects and he was a very kind, well respected person. Everyone who knew him was better off for knowing him. He spoke of you often and how proud of you he was of you. Know that he will always be with you. Anna Drury

      • Dear Arash,
        Please accept my most sincere condolences on the loss of your dad. I worked with Nasser for over 20 years here at UNLV. He was a most wonderful man. He was extremely supportive of me finally completing my bachelor’s degree that I started way back in in 1985. I WILL graduate and receive my B.S.Ed. on December 18, 2012 from the UNLV College of Education. He and I were SO looking forward to that day so he could stand on stage with me and see the culmination of my efforts and his support! He spoke about you and how much he missed seeing you. I know he loved you very much. Please take some comfort in knowing he had such a positive impact on so many people, from students and co-workers to faculty and the Las Vegas business community. He left a legacy of compassion, integrity, and a sincere love for education. I will truly miss him.

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