This week I am honored and humbled to begin my service as the seventh president of the University of Nebraska. The opportunity to lead one of America’s great universities truly is one of a lifetime and I am excited to build on our rich history of serving as a catalyst for change in the lives of people in Nebraska and around the world.
I will spend my initial days as president traveling the state – meeting many of you, spending time in your communities, learning from you and listening to your ideas about how we can work together to create an even stronger university.
Because I do believe we can be stronger. One of the things that attracted me to Nebraska was its excellent educational system, from K-12 through college, that provides people with opportunities to build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. But we have more work to do, and Nebraska’s only public university needs to help lead the way. At a time when quality education has never been more important, I am convinced that our state – and the world – need the University of Nebraska to be a giant in higher education, doing more than ever to transform the lives of students and the people it serves.
“My fundamental commitment throughout my professional life has been to try to impact students’ lives in the way education changed my own life.”
I invite you to dream with me about what that means. About how we can be a giant in making sure college is within reach for all Nebraskans, in helping more students get across the finish line on time and with less debt, in working with policymakers and the private sector to create jobs, in putting our resources to work to help feed the world. I think we can be all these things and more, if we dream big and work hard.
I have experienced firsthand the transformative power of higher education. Growing up on a farm in rural Mississippi, with limited family resources, I never imagined I would have the opportunity to even go to college, much less become president of a leading university. But my military service helped pave the way and I was fortunate to receive excellent postsecondary education at both the community college and university levels. That education in turn opened the door for me to begin my career, first as a high school principal, then superintendent, state superintendent and, until a few weeks ago, as commissioner of higher education in Mississippi.
My fundamental commitment throughout my professional life has been to try to impact students’ lives in the way education changed my own life. Today, with two young children of my own, I am more sharply focused on that goal than ever.
My wife Susie and I, our son Will and daughter Caroline are excited to call Nebraska home. We are already in awe of this state, its caring and committed citizens, and its great university system, enriching the lives of people from Scottsbluff to Nebraska City, Valentine to McCook. I look forward to learning much more about Nebraska in the weeks and months ahead and to working with you to shape the next era for the University of Nebraska. I truly believe the best days for our university and our state are ahead of us. I can’t wait to get started.