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Former teacher, legislator offered valuable life lessons

If ever a man appeared to have prepared himself for the flak and sucker punches found in Nevada’s legislative and university politics, it was Jack Lund Schofield.

Schofield, an education advocate and former Assembly and Senate member who also served on the state Board of Regents, often found himself in life’s center ring. He died March 13 at age 91.

Born in Arizona, a graduate of the Class of ’41 from Las Vegas High, Schofield was a Golden Gloves amateur boxing champ and flew two dozen missions in B-25s near the end of World War II. That might have been enough adventure for one man, but he was just getting started.

He earned a college degree from the University of Utah and joined the Clark County School District as a teacher. He’d continue his education, adding a master’s degree from the University of Nevada, Reno and eventually earning a Ph.D. from UNLV in 1995 at age 72.

One of the lessons Schofield teaches us is that, as Yogi Berra once famously said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” A person who never quits and meets life head-on can accomplish much even when he passes what others might call his prime. Schofield talked about getting a law degree before he turned 100, and no one who knew him doubts he would have accomplished that goal, too.

He received plenty of honors during his long life, including a distinguished alumni award from the University of Utah to the naming of a middle school in his honor.

UNLV President Len Jessup had it right when he recently observed, “Dr. Jack Schofield understood the power of education and was a tireless advocate for UNLV and for higher education in Nevada. I’ve quickly come to learn that his passion for the success of Nevada’s students, from kindergarten to high school, was unmatched. The impact of his service will be felt for many years.”

Those who knew him well were influenced by his energy and devotion to education. Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins, who spent five legislative sessions in the Assembly, couldn’t help but be impressed by Schofield’s unabashed enthusiasm.

“He was always cheerful and friendly,” Collins recalls. “He had a spry smile and always words of encouragement. He never left his fingerprints on a prank.”

The Legislature could use Schofield’s sense of humor these days — and his sense of perspective.

“He shared political and practical wisdom with me many times,” Collins says. “While I admired and complimented him for his many accomplishments, he always pointed out my good deeds. He was someone everyone loved and enjoyed.”

Clark County Commissioner and former Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani knew Schofield as a political foe and ally. Both were schoolteachers with a shared devotion to improve Nevada’s public education system. That common ground helped them forge alliances even after Schofield’s unsuccessful attempt in 1990 to unseat Giunchigliani.

“Even though he ran against me in 1990, we came together and worked on education funding,” Giunchigliani recalls. “He was a strong supporter of a school of medicine at UNLV and had lobbied me in ’91 to move the school south. I tried for several sessions and got nowhere.

“This year, we are close, but need the $27 million (from the Legislature), not the $9 million! Maybe he can help from up there.”

Schofield and wife Alene’s six children gave them nearly 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Now that’s a lot of Schofields.

That family experience helped make Jack Schofield an expert at dealing with unique personalities of varying degrees of maturity.

Which, come to think of it, probably also helped prepare him to succeed at the Legislature and university board of regents.

Nevada native John L. Smith also writes a column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal that appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Contact him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295.

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