In defense of Ruvo, stateroom that bore his name |

In defense of Ruvo, stateroom that bore his name

Chuck Muth
For the Appeal

In a recent Nevada Appeal column congratulating Gov. Jim Gibbons for painting over the name of philanthropist Larry Ruvo on a public building, Guy Farmer asks why the state named “a public building after a wealthy Las Vegas liquor distributor” in the first place. Fair question. So I did a little checking.

First, let’s talk about the building in question. We are NOT talking about the Governor’s Mansion; we’re talking about an old, dilapidated adjacent garage that was converted into an elegant conference room with state-of-the-art kitchen facilities for public events, such as the annual Wolf Pack dinner and Tin Cup Tea.

But refurbishing the garage was only a small part of the major restoration project Mr. Ruvo undertook in 1999, which literally saved the mansion. At the time, the mansion was in worse shape than many low-income Section 8 housing units. So Mr. Ruvo, as a private citizen, took it upon himself to lead the effort of not only repairing and refurbishing this important state landmark, but raised millions of dollars in private funds, not taxpayer funds, to pay for it all. He also personally contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars out of his own pocket to make Nevada’s Governor’s Mansion the envy of governors across the United States.

And in recognition of his generosity, the new conference center was named the “Larry Ruvo Stateroom.” A very small gesture, considering the enormity of his efforts.

But what about the question Mr. Farmer raises about naming public buildings after people? Well, fine. But that means we need to paint over a whole lot of other names from public buildings in and around Carson City – including the Richard H. Bryan Building and the Joe Dini Library and Student Center. At least Mr. Ruvo spent his own money and not taxpayer dollars.

Speaking of which, I find it troubling that Mr. Farmer finds it troubling that Mr. Ruvo is wealthy, as though that somehow should disqualify him from being honored. But since when is being financially successful a “bad” thing in America? Mr. Ruvo’s company employs more than 10,000 people. We should be thanking him, not bashing him.

Ditto the shot about Mr. Ruvo being from Las Vegas. Last time I checked, Las Vegas was still part of Nevada – and the Governor’s Mansion and grounds are for all Nevadans, not just those who live in the capital city.

And then there was the slam at Mr. Ruvo for being a liquor distributor. Good grief. This state’s entire thriving economy is largely based on the adult-beverage industry. How in the world is being a distributor of wine and spirits something to be demonized, especially in Nevada?

Mr. Farmer could have pointed out Mr. Ruvo’s philanthropy, rather than needle him for his Southern Nevada business success, but chose not to. That’s a shame. Because Larry Ruvo has been recognized as Man of the Year by the Muscular Dystrophy Association and has raised millions of dollars for students of the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV – coincidentally a public building named after another private citizen. He’s also a board member of the Nevada Ballet Dance Theater and founder of the Keep Memory Alive Foundation and the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute, both of which do pioneering work in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

In other words, the man has been a spirited (pardon the pun) citizen who has given back generously to our state and community.

And just for the record, I don’t know Mr. Ruvo. I don’t believe I’ve ever met him. I’ve never done work for him. Nor has he ever contributed to my organization. So I’m writing about this only because what’s right is right – and painting over the man’s name all these years after the fact is just plain wrong. Gov. Gibbons should correct this unfortunate mistake immediately.

• Chuck Muth, of Carson City, is president and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a political blogger. Read his views every Friday on the Appeal Opinion page or visit