Plaque honoring former UNLV cheerleader stolen from plaza

LAS VEGAS - UNLV police are investigating the theft of a bronze plaque stolen from the university's plaza.

The plaque? Not an ordinary plaque. The plaza? Not an ordinary plaza.

According to UNLV, Valerie Pida Student Plaza was named after Valerie Pida in 1991, while Pida was a student and cheerleader at UNLV. In 2000, students raised money to erect a plaque in her honor.

While at UNLV, Pida suffered from Hodgkin's disease, a lymph node cancer. According to the university, she was diagnosed as a teen. According to her friends, you would never know.

"She was always the person in the room who brightened the room up when she came in the door," remembered Mark Wade, a former UNLV basketball player. "I could see it just like it was yesterday," he said as he pictured her smile.

Pida passed away November 10, 1992. 

UNLV says the bronze plaque honoring Valerie Pida was reported stolen at 7:00 a.m on January 2, almost 30 years after her death.

"Wow. What is the world coming to?" asked Wade in disbelief. "To steal something that is valuable to the university but more so a symbol of love, of friendship, caring, and giving  to remove that plaque... it's devastating."

Friday morning UNLV released a statement regarding the theft:

“Valerie Pida was a courageous woman who inspired her fellow students and the university community when she attended UNLV 30 years ago. Known as the ‘Spirit of UNLV,’ Valerie’s memory continues to live on today in the plaza that bears her name at the heart of our campus. We remain saddened by the theft of the plaque and we are working diligently to have it replaced.”

The plaque highlighted a bit of Pida's story, but even that, Wade said, couldn't sum it up. "Even if you read it you probably fully don't understand what she meant and what she went through and what she symbolizes for a lot of people," explained Wade. "If you're a student who passes by you should want to know what it meant and why it was dedicated to her." 

For Wade, and for the countless others who knew Pida, her story lives on forever. 

"31 years later her name is still prevalent in my life," shared Wade. "Prevalent in my daily walk because again she's tied to UNLV for me to the end of time."

UNLV shared that the plaque was insured and it is working quickly to have a replica made. Officers continue to investigate the case and anyone with information on the stolen plaque is urged to contact police.


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