Viva Las Vegas: Ann-Margret Receives Honorary Degree from UNLV

Posted on: May 17, 2022, 05:16h. 

Last updated on: May 17, 2022, 10:23h.

Legendary Las Vegas headliner Ann-Margret was given an honorary doctoral degree by UNLV this weekend. It is one of many Las Vegas-linked honors she has received over the decades as an actress, singer, and dancer.

Legendary performer Ann-Margaret stands with UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield as she receives an honorary degree
Legendary performer Ann-Margret stands with UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield as she receives an honorary degree from the school. She became a Las Vegas headliner in the 1960s. (Image: UNLV via Twitter)

UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield presented her with the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in a well-attended ceremony held at the campus’ Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday.

She recalled to the many graduates and their families how she was in her first year in college when the lure of Las Vegas led her to pack her bags and leave dorms and classrooms behind.

I did one year at Northwestern,” she said. “But I worked really hard that one year.”

For many years, Las Vegas and the Strip have played a key role in her life.

Started at the Dunes

Back in 1960, she performed with some fellow Northwestern students at the lounge at the Dunes Hotel. The group was called the Suttletones.

She soon was back in Vegas, when she appeared in George Burns’ Christmas show in the Congo Room at the Sahara Hotel and Casino.

She quickly got signed by Hollywood studios to appear in such movies as Pocketful of Miracles, State Fair, and Bye Bye Birdie.

In 1964, she brought the culture and vibe of Las Vegas to the nation and the world when she starred in the now classic movie, “Viva Las Vegas,” with the King: Elvis Presley.

One song and dance number, “C’mon Everybody,” was filmed on location at the then-gymnasium on the UNLV campus. A “University of Las Vegas” sign appeared in the background. The gym is now UNLV’s Barrick Museum of Art.

The movie became one of her favorites.

Ann-Margaret in 1968
Ann-Margret in 1963, pictured above. She had already appeared in films and live shows. (Image: Wikipedia)

She soon emerged as a Las Vegas headliner with a five-week show at the Riviera casino. “Everybody did two shows a night then,” so, she did, too, Ann-Margret recalled last year when inducted into the UNLV College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame.

Las Vegas was important in her personal life, too. It was on May 8, 1967 she married Roger Smith in Las Vegas. He was an actor who became her manager. They were married for 50 years until he passed away in 2017.

Ann-Margret was born in Sweden in 1941. She immigrated to the US in 1946 and was raised in Illinois. As a youngster, she performed on Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour.

When inducted into the UNLV Hall of Fame in 2021, a tearful Ann-Margret summed up her feelings on the city that continues to play a key role in her life. “I love Las Vegas.”

Love for Vegas

That feeling was repeated on Saturday. She recalled the kindness of the community, too.

Las Vegas has been my home away from home for so long, since the 1970s and 1980s,” Ann-Margret told reporters on Saturday. “Everyone has been so kind. I love it here, and I’m loving today.”