When 96-year-old Joyce Mack moved to Las Vegas more than 70 years ago, the valley was mostly empty desert. The population – about 2.7 million today – was about 35,000, and a handful of early resorts scattered in today’s strip.
But Mac’s late husband, Jerry, and his father, Nate, had a vision of something great. They saw what few could imagine.
“I remember Nate and Jerry taking me outside to show me the valley,” she said. “They told me there would be nice hotels and everyone would want to come here.”
“I looked outside and only saw the desert and the cacti,” she said. “It was hard to see at the time, but they made me believe, and that’s exactly what happened.”
On Saturday, Joyce Mack will be recognized as a brave Nevada woman by New NLV University’s Boyd School of Law. The Mack family has supported the law school for years.
US Senator Jackie Rosen will present the award during a ceremony at the university.
“I have known Joyce for nearly 20 years, and I am constantly amazed at her dedication to improving our country,” Rosen said in a statement.
“Throughout her life, Joyce has made countless contributions to the Las Vegas community, helping to build many civic, religious, and educational institutions across our valley,” Rosen said. “I know that her work in support of UNLV will continue to serve generation after generation of students.”
“The contributions of Joyce Mack and the Mack family to UNLV and William S. Boyd College of Law cannot be overstated,” said Sarah Gordon, interim dean of the law school. “Ms. Mac’s support has provided countless opportunities for our students and faculty, and we are so grateful for all that you have done for our law school and our community over the years.”
Jerry Mac’s father moved his family to southern Nevada at the time of the Great Depression and was soon involved in buying real estate in the area.
Jerry, who was friends with Joyce’s older brother, met his future wife while attending the University of California. They married and eventually moved to Las Vegas from Los Angeles in 1949 with their two young daughters.
Jerry Mac, founder of Bank of Las Vegas and vice chairman of what was then Valley Bank, helped fund many of the Strip’s early casinos.
He also invested in real estate and spent time as president of the Riviera and manager of Four Queens and the Dunes, one of Joyce Mac’s favorite hangouts in the ‘good old days’.
Jerry and Joyce Mack, an influential Las Vegas couple for decades, were instrumental in the development of UNLV and the development of the city, which she described then as little more than a “small western town”.
“I am very proud of our city,” she said. “I am very happy with how we have evolved. It is almost like New York City now. Everyone wants to come here.”
Since her husband’s death in 1998, Joyce Mack has continued the family’s charitable efforts in southern Nevada.
She and her family were among a small group of people who helped make UNLV possible through the Earth Foundation, which donated 400 acres to the campus in 1967.
In the 1950s, Jerry Mac helped establish Southern Nevada College, which later became UNLV.
Over the years, Joyce Mack has continued to support UNLV and a range of other community organizations, including Planned Parenthood of Southern Nevada, Opportunity Village, and groups that support the arts and Jewish causes.
Mac still loves to go out to dinner with friends and family and go to football matches at UNLV.
She also attends UNLV basketball games at the Thomas & Mack Center, which opened in 1983 in large part due to the efforts of Jerry Mack and business partner E. Berry Thomas, who died in 2016. The arena is named after the duo who flipped. Coin to specify which person’s name should be listed first.
“Berry was a great guy and a great partner to Jerry,” Mac said. “Perry was the banker and Jerry was the real estate guy.”
While Mack also owns a home in Southern California, she spends most of her time in Las Vegas.
She has lived in the Las Vegas Country Club Estates for nearly 60 years. Her home is decorated with pictures of her three daughters, nine grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.
There are also framed photos of Joyce Mack with past US presidents and vice presidents, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. She has a signed photo of CNN news personality Anderson Cooper, whom she describes as a “very nice guy.”
Mac spoke casually about the time she sat next to Obama at a dinner in Las Vegas.
I also remembered watching performances of the famous Rat Pack group, which in the 1960s included artists Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford.
“It was an interesting life in an interesting city,” Mack said. “I love this city. I care about the people here in Las Vegas.”
back to top
Adsgeni code is : 748912