The Distinguished Nevadan is the highest honor awarded by the Nevada System of Higher Education and is bestowed upon prominent individuals who have made significant achievements that have contributed to the cultural, scientific or social advancement of Nevada.
"Sen. Raggio's commitment to improving the quality of life for all Nevadans through education was exemplary," said Jason Geddes, Nevada Board of Regents chair. "He served as an example for lifelong service to the great state of Nevada and I can think of no finer example of a Distinguished Nevadan than Bill Raggio."
Raggio, who had a long history of state public service in key leadership positions, died on February 24, 2012 at the age of 85.
A fourth-generation Nevadan, Raggio graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a bachelor's degree in 1948 and earned his law degree from the University of California Hastings College of Law in 1951. After a short time in private practice, Raggio became deputy district attorney for Washoe County, Nevada in 1952. He was elected district attorney in 1958 and re-elected in 1962 and 1966.
In 1972, Raggio was elected to the Nevada State Senate. He embarked on what would become the longest service in Nevada State Senate History (19 regular and 13 special sessions) and helped produce landmark legislation for both K-12 and higher education.
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the Legislative Committee on Education, Raggio advocated for a stronger system of higher education. His leadership enabled the state's colleges and universities to expand and his support for student-centered initiatives, such as the Governor Kenny C. Guinn Millennium Scholarship program, allowed more of Nevada's youth to attend college.
Raggio was a partner in the statewide Jones Vargas Law Firm and served as a member and National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
In 1999, he was recognized by the University of Nevada, Reno Alumni Association as its Outstanding Alumnus and by the University's Athletic Association with its Jake Lawlor Award. Several buildings and facilities throughout the state are named in his honor, including the William J. Raggio Education Building at UNR.
The formal presentation of the award will take place during spring commencement at the University of Nevada, Reno.