The 1864 Nevada state constitution called for the founding of a school of mines. The creation of the University of Nevada School of Mines in 1888 makes it one of the oldest in the nation. The institution is a testament to the industry's importance to the state. The name "Mackay" honors Comstock silver baron John Mackay and the philanthropy of his family and especially of his son Clarence. The highly regarded school trained generations of engineers who plied their trade internationally.
The 1908 Mackay School of Mines building on the Reno campus is a rare western example of design by McKim, Mead, and White, a renowned eastern architectural firm. The distinguished Neoclassical facade looks over a tree-lined quad, which the architects patterned after the University of Virginia. Before sculptor Gutzon Borglum worked at Mount Rushmore, he cast a bronze statue of John Mackay to stand before the building. Reno architect Frederick DeLongchamps enlarged the building in 1926.
The Mackay School of Mines' Keck Museum retains an early twentieth-century character. Its collection includes valuable minerals and the priceless Mackay family silver, forged from Comstock bullion by Tiffany and Company of New York. A university reorganization in 2003 demoted the Mackay School of Mines to a department.
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