- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Gov. Dave Heineman confirmed Wednesday that he will apply for the University of Nebraska presidency, saying he welcomes scrutiny of his candidacy and arguing that he can win support for the position despite his lack of advanced degrees.

The term-limited governor, who is leaving office in January after 10 years in the job, said he has asked the university’s Board of Regents to consider him for the position. Heineman said he also contacted several regents Tuesday and spoke to the university’s previous president on Wednesday to notify them of his interest.

The job came open with the departure of J.B. Milliken, who left to become chancellor of the City University of New York. The university is conducting a national search, and will announce four finalists before making a selection.

The Republican governor pledged to focus on keeping tuition affordable, increasing student enrollment and expanding research activity if he’s chosen.

“One of Nebraska’s greatest assets is the University of Nebraska,” he said at a news conference announcing his decision. “The next president will have an opportunity to build upon President Milliken’s successes and to lead the University of Nebraska to an even more successful future.”

Heineman said he spoke by phone Tuesday with Regent Howard Hawks, the board’s chairman, two student regents, and Regents Hal Daub and Rob Schafer.

Hawks said in a statement after Heineman’s announcement that the board will treat all candidates equally.

Heineman’s requests for one-on-one meetings with board members, university administrators and search committee members “are inappropriate and will not be honored,” Hawks said. “To do so would present a problem of fairness and it is just not practical to track and offer comparable opportunities to all candidates.”

Hawks said the regents want a diverse pool of applicants, and did not want to undermine the legitimacy of the national search.

The board is composed of eight regents and four non-voting student regents. The regents are elected, but two - Schafer and Bob Phares - were appointed by Heineman to fill sudden openings on the board. In addition, Heineman has helped Schafer with his campaign fundraising and appeared at an event with Regents Tim Clare and Jim Pillen. Heineman also served as Daub’s chief-of-staff when Daub was in Congress in the 1980s.

Heineman disputed the suggestion that his high-profile candidacy and connections might sway the board or deter other candidates from applying. If chosen, Heineman said he would not participate in any GOP campaign or political fundraising activities.

“Because I’m the governor of the state of Nebraska, I believe I will be held to a higher level of scrutiny and a higher level of expectation,” he said. “I welcome that, and I hope to meet and exceed their expectations.”

Heineman, a former U.S. Army Ranger, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point but has no other advanced degrees. Heineman said he would work to overcome that lack by developing relationships with faculty members.

“I view this as a challenge,” he said. “My challenge is to get to know the faculty, earn their respect, and show them that we have a shared commitment to education.”

As governor, Heineman helped secure $25 million for the university’s Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln, $50 million for a university cancer research center in Omaha, $15 million for an allied health professions college on the Kearney campus and $6 million for a veterinary diagnostic lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Heineman also said he would not interfere with the decisions already made by the university, such as allowing benefits for employees in same-sex relationships.

Heineman would likely see a substantial salary boost if he were chosen as president. As governor, he earns $105,000 a year.

Milliken’s salary when he left the university was $420,757 - including about $91,000 that was privately funded by the University of Nebraska Foundation. Last year, the foundation spent $750,000 in private money to buy a new house in Lincoln for the university president.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide