By Kimberly Bryant
After an arduous search process for the next president of the University of Nebraska, the NU regents elected James Milliken of the University of North Carolina as the new NU president on May 22. The course of the process involved a search committee controversy and regents having to endure the withdrawal of two candidates.
Milliken, who currently serves as senior vice president for university affairs at the 16-campus University of North Carolina, is no stranger to Nebraska. He graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in English and later went on to earn his law degree from the New York University School of Law. In addition, he previously served as vice president for external affairs and corporation secretary to the Board of Regents and prior to that as executive assistant to the NU president.
Having served as senior vice president for university affairs at UNC since 1998, his responsibilities include federal relations, outreach, economic development, public affairs, advancement and strategic communications.
Milliken’s term as NU president begins August 1.
In a statement, he said “I am honored and humbled –but excited and energized– by the challenge. I look forward to sharing our excitement, our purpose, and our aspirations with the citizens of Nebraska, so that all of us can share a vision of a four-campus University of Nebraska as the home of excellent teaching, research and scholarship, and outreach, engagement, and health care that best serves the state of Nebraska.”
UNO Chancellor Nancy Belck issued a statement saying “J.B. Milliken is widely respected, having served NU very well a few years ago. A Nebraskan at heart, he will work hard to make sure the university reflects the educational values and goals of our citizens.”
Milliken will replace current NU president, L. Dennis Smith, who officially retires on June 30.
After the announcement of Smith’s retirement in September 2003, the search began for the next person to lead the NU system. The Board of Regents named an 18-member committee in October to aid in the process.
In late April, the committee came under fire for private gatherings that were held in Kansas City, Mo. for eight of the candidates who were being considered for the position.
Once the list was narrowed down, the search committee released the names of the finalists. Finalists included Milliken; Admiral James Ellis Jr. of Omaha, commander of the United States Strategic Command; Peter Hoff, president of the University of Maine and Kim Robak, vice president of external affairs and corporation secretary at UNL.
After a week of interviews and campus tours, held the week of May 17, Ellis and Milliken were called back for second interviews. Ellis later withdrew his consideration for president, along with Robak, who withdrew a day after Ellis. The withdrawals of the two candidates prompted questions of whether the search would have to start over, since only two candidates remained, Hoff and Milliken.
However, a decision was made the following Saturday morning, when the regents announced the selection of Milliken as president.