AS A CARDIOLOGIST WITH HIS OWN PRACTICE and a man deeply committed to the community, Dr. Keith Boman is very busy. During the past 25 years, he’s served on too many boards and held too many trustee positions to list. Currently, he’s the medical director for Boyd Gaming Corp., MGM Resorts International and the Health Services Coalition. He’s also a trustee of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and he’s vice-chairman of The Smith Center of Performing Arts.
In fact, The Smith Center was the doctor’s vision and dream. For 20 years, while the rest of us were happy enough to catch another show on the Strip, Boman, along with Nancy Houssels, the co-founder of the Nevada Ballet Theatre (yes, he served on that board, too), rallied for a superior performing arts center and gathered the troops to build it.
Needless to say, Boman generally doesn’t have time to do lunch, but for diamondcake, he made an exception. At Landry’s Seafood on Sahara Avenue—it’s convenient to his office—over shrimp cocktail, then chicken and mushrooms, this gregarious Las Vegas native spoke about his passion for arts and culture, his experience with the Reynolds Foundation and making dreams come true.
What’s motivated you to be so involved with the community?
If there was something that needed to be involved in, my father was involved. My mother was on the Child Welfare board. They were both heavily invested in community. Because of the example they set, I got involved in a number of things very early.
Where does your interest in the arts stem from?
I went to Western (High School) for one year and they did Bye Bye Birdie. It blew me away. Vegas was small and I’d never seen anything like this. Then I was involved in The Sound of Music at Clark High School, and we put Oklahoma! on stage at the old auditorium in Las Vegas High School. I remember it like it was yesterday, moving our production to Las Vegas High—it was the only theater in town.
Thirty years later, look what happens. If I hadn’t had the interest back then, I doubt I would have had the interest in The Smith Center.
How did you come to be a trustee of the Reynolds Foundation?
My parents were good friends with Fred Smith, who, in the late ’40s, moved out here to run the Review-Journal, the largest newspaper in the Donrey Media Group (now Stephens Media). When Mr. Reynolds, who was getting on in age, needed somebody to coordinate his care, they came to me. He died quietly in 1993 and most of his assets went to his foundation. Mr. Smith was the head of it. They assembled 10 or 12 trustees. I was asked to be one of them.
And, of course, you agreed.
Actually, I turned Fred down. Do you believe that? I was in a group practice and group practices, at least then, put very little value on community activities. Then I called him back three days later and said, ‘I’ll make the time.’ Can you imagine how different my life would be?
As well as servicing various needs of citizens in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Vegas, the Reynolds Foundation has worked to fight heart disease, create better living conditions for the elderly and improve integrity in journalism. When did arts and culture become a priority?
I know Mr. Smith. His idea of culture used to be Willie Nelson in a bar on a Saturday night. He’ll tell you that 100 times. So my biggest surprise was Reynolds’ commitment to The Smith Center. The biggest thing was when we ran into problems with the financial crash and we were going to have to phase the project. The trustees got together and said, ‘We want to make the biggest gift we’re ever going to make.’ It was over 100 million dollars. I almost fainted.
Then they named the Boman Pavilion after you.
It’s like this beautiful life just bloomed. All that came from just taking care of Mr. Reynolds.
Tell us about your involvement with Nevada Ballet Theatre.
When I was asked to be on the board, I wasn’t really interested in ballet. But if you want to become a city that’s culturally sophisticated, you have to have this piece. If it hadn’t been for Nevada Ballet Theatre and Nancy Houssels, I would probably never have been involved in The Smith Center. Before everybody else got involved, it was just the two of us. We had the same dream. Nancy will never get enough credit for The Smith Center. Truly, she was always there—for her ballet, but for the community, too.
How difficult was it to get others onboard?
With all due respect to the people who’ve lived here forever, you get used to what you’re used to. For so many years, we thought it was normal not to have any first-class cultural productions. We thought the norm was the Strip. Particularly, the “Old Vegas” folks just didn’t get it. I mean, eventually they got it. But it was a big sell. A lot of one-on-one conversations.
How often do you get to see these first-class productions now?
You should have seen my ticket bill last year: It was almost five figures.
Sixty years since inception and 2 billion donated dollars later, the foundation is winding down. How do you think this will impact Vegas?
The Reynolds Foundation has never attracted attention—Mr. Smith is a very private person—but in the next two or three years, there’s going to be a huge gap, a pit, millions of dollars. I think the community is going to feel it and they won’t know it until were gone. Who’s going to step up?
Any final words to share with our readers?
None of these opportunities would have happened unless I got involved. You have to get out there and get involved in something. I’m not afraid to take the jump with no promise of the outcome. That’s worked pretty well for me.
Previously published by diamondcake. Updated by smallTALK. Archived for The Reynolds Foundation.