LAS VEGAS – Stacey Fott’s voice is soft, even comforting. And when she does speak, it’s always a conversation filled with thoughtful, carefully chosen words.
She graduated from Gonzaga in 1993 with a history degree, eventually getting her master’s in museum studies. She literally works in a library as a digital collections specialist and grant project manager at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Stacey is kind of a quiet person.
Well, except for those times at Orleans Arena when the Bulldogs are playing in the West Coast Conference Tournament. If you’ve ever been to one of the tourney games in Las Vegas to watch the Zags play over the past decade or so, you’ve almost certainly heard her.
Until this year, she was the Zags fan with that incredibly loud cowbell. It resonated throughout the building. You know, loud might be an understatement. Heck, she’d even bring extra cowbells so others could join in her pseudo bacchanalian bells of basketball booster backing.
A few years ago, a BYU fan sitting in front of her at the tournament actually went to the security team at Orleans Arena to see if they would remove her. Or at least make her stop.
There were no rules against noisemakers in the arena or from the WCC and, just like his school’s basketball teams that year, the BYU fan left Las Vegas unsatisfied.
That story makes her smile – which speaks volumes, even if her voice doesn’t.
This year, cowbells aren’t allowed at the Orleans. She’s handling it better than you’d expect. And the BYU fans likely will appreciate it, as well, if only the Cougar men’s team were still playing in the tournament.
There’s a lot to like about Stacey, but if you really want to warm the heart of a newspaper editor, just ask her about her job.
Technically, she’s part of the “Nevada Digital Newspaper Project” – which is a fancy way of saying she makes sure decades and decades of long-forgotten newspapers are digitized so that the first draft of her state’s history is saved.
In 2014, UNLV’s library system was selected to participate in a program that is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. The program is a long-term effort to provide permanent access to a national digital resource of historic newspapers published between 1836 and 1922, selected and digitized from all U.S. states and territories.
The digitized newspapers are then made available for free on the Chronicling America website.
That essentially means she’s a copy editor for newspapers that were published a century ago. She makes sure the digital conversion is accurate to the original.
Before Fott began her current job, she was a book editor with Stephens Press, which was part of a Nevada publishing company that also owned the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper. One of the book projects she helped lead in Las Vegas had both Spokane and Gonzaga roots.
Bing Crosby’s niece Carolyn Schneider wrote a couple of books about her famous uncle. One was “Bing: On the Road to Elko.” Through Fott’s role with Stephens Press, Fott worked with Schneider to get the book published.
Having someone who not only had a working knowledge of the famous performer, but had even attended the same university as Bing, became a huge asset as the book went through development.
“Of course, it was like pure dumb luck, but a lot of people wouldn’t appreciate where she was coming from because they really didn’t know about Bing’s history or importance,” she said. “There would be times when she would show us some of the pictures she had for the book, and when I said I knew that location, she would be curious as to how. When I explained I lived in Spokane and went to Gonzaga, we both knew this could work.”
Equally interesting to Fott were Bing’s ties to the Las Vegas area. Crosby married his second wife there and had a ranch in Elko, about 400 miles away in the northern part of the state.
“I never knew Bing lived in Nevada,” she said. “I didn’t know what his life was like when he wasn’t filming or singing. He really loved to be on his ranch. He liked to be more down-home and laid-back when he was there. That was really interesting to me.”
But not as interesting as Gonzaga basketball, which was very different when she attended classes there in the early ’90s. She hasn’t missed the Zags’ WCC games in Las Vegas, just like she didn’t miss the team’s Final Four games.
Even though that meant flying to Phoenix by herself and even attending the game alone … or as alone as you can be when close to 80,000 other people are there with you.
Her ticket was in the very last row, of what is really a football stadium.
But with that cowbell, she was heard.
And she sure would like a chance to ring it again in a few weeks, if you know what we mean.
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