NU regents name interim president, the first woman to lead the University of Nebraska system

NU regents name interim president, the first woman to lead the University of Nebraska system
Susan Fritz

LINCOLN — Susan Fritz has spent her career in the University of Nebraska system, and she will lead NU as interim president beginning Aug. 15.

Fritz will be the first woman to lead the NU system.

She won the position Thursday on a 7-1 vote. Board of Regents member Howard Hawks voted no. He shook her hand afterward and said she had his support now.

Asked who Hawks preferred, he said, “It’s irrelevant.”

Fritz received all three of her degrees at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has worked as a faculty member and administrator in the NU system throughout her career.

Fritz, 61, grew up on a farm outside of Crete, Nebraska. Fritz, her husband, Russell, and one of her sons run and own a farm outside of Crete.

“I have been connected to the university for most of my personal and professional life,” Fritz told the board.

She made it clear that she was delighted.

“Board members, I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she said.

Fritz was selected after a more than two-hour closed session.

NU President Hank Bounds announced this year that he will leave his job in August and move back to the South with his family. Bounds has said he is worn down and wants more family time. That means the regents must find a permanent replacement and might do that before the end of the year.

The president is the top administrator of the NU system and is the boss of the campus chancellors. The president oversees institutions in Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney and Curtis.

Regents Chairman Tim Clare of Lincoln called it “a historic day” because Fritz will be the first woman to lead the system.

“For Susan, it’s all about the students,” Clare said. He looked over at Fritz and said he believes in her.

Fritz responded quietly: “Thank you.”

Fritz previously served as the associate vice chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and interim dean of the Agricultural Research Division at UNL. She also directed IANR’s international agricultural programs and is a former associate dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and department head of the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications (ALEC) program.

In 2009, Fritz was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement.

Also Thursday, the regents assigned NU attorneys to work out a contract with AGB Search, a Washington, D.C., executive search firm. The firm is expected to assist in creating a presidential profile, recruiting a pool of candidates and performing reference checks.

Regents documents indicate AGB Search will be paid $169,750 plus expenses.

AGB is a search firm created in 2010 by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. The latter organization provides guidance to higher education boards and leaders to “help them navigate the changing education landscape,” the organization’s website says.

Among the three-person team expected to serve the NU system from AGB Search is Sally Mason, the former president of the University of Iowa.

AGB Search says it has conducted more than 600 searches for higher education institutions and related entities. The company searches for presidents, chancellors, provosts, deans and other administrators.

The company says it has worked on searches that produced presidents at Iowa State, the University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State in Minnesota, and the executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents.