CRETE, NE — From a football field in central Florida to a desk in Crete, Nebraska.
It’s a big career shift for Dr. Roger Hughes, but it’s also a homecoming. He’s returning to his alma mater as the 13th President of Doane University. He says it’s a dream come true.
“I’ve had two dream jobs. One, be the head coach at the University of Nebraska and two, be the president of Doane University," Hughes said. "I’ve been blessed enough to have that opportunity to get the last one.”
The Doane University Board of Trustees affirmed Hughes’ appointment on Friday. He officially starts his job on June 1st.
Hughes comes to Doane from Stetson University, where he was hired to restart the school’s football program in 2011. Prior to that, he spent 10 seasons as the head football coach at Princeton.
Hughes applied for the Doane president job when it came open 10 years ago. He says working with all facets of the university to revive football at Stetson made him a better candidate this time around.
“Housing, admissions, financial aid, obviously student success, career development, student life - all those things we had to deal with and ramp up to take on 135 football players,” Hughes said.
Director of Human Resources Anne Ziola served on the presidential search committee. She says it was his ability to connect with people that made the committee pick Hughes.
“And that is what the foundation is here at Doane, is being able to connect and relate with people to help them become their best selves. That is one of the strongest things that came forward with Dr. Hughes,” Ziola said.
Hughes grew up in Crawford and graduated from Doane in 1982. His brother and sister also attended Doane and his wife, Laura, is from Lincoln. Their daughter, Maddison, is a 2018 Doane graduate. Hughes says seeing her development in college strengthened his belief in the school.
“And that’s when I knew Doane was continuing to do for her what they had done for me," Hughes said. "So that’s why I’m here, to try and create that same type of experience.”
Hughes says small, liberal-arts colleges face several challenges now, specifically with enrollment and retention. But, he credits outgoing President Dr. Jacque Carter with putting Doane in position to address those challenges and continue to succeed.