Prem S. Paul, long-serving vice chancellor for research and economic development who helped lead unprecedented research growth at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, died early Friday, Sept. 2, surrounded by family. He was 68.
Paul, who began his tenure at Nebraska on July 1, 2001, announced he was ending his tenure as vice chancellor in an Aug. 29 message to faculty and staff.
“Serving this university… has been the highlight of my career,” Paul wrote in the message. “I am indebted to the many faculty members and staff who have made our research growth possible. It has been an honor to witness your achievements and to watch you dream bigger. We are a strong research university on an impressive trajectory and I know that our best days lie ahead.”
Under Paul’s leadership, the university was one of the fastest-growing research universities in the nation from 2001 to 2009. Research funding surpassed $100 million in 2006, marking the first time the university’s external funding reached that milestone. Most recently, sponsored campus research in the fiscal year ending June 30 increased more than 12 percent from the previous year, setting an all-time university record of $146.9 million.
“Prem’s impact on the University of Nebraska cannot be overstated. Thanks to Prem’s leadership, vigor and unsurpassed vision, our contributions to research, scholarship, and creative activity transformed us as a research-intensive university,” Chancellor Ronnie Green wrote to faculty and staff this morning. “Words can’t adequately express the enduring gratitude, respect, and love that the collective University of Nebraska family will always have for Prem.
“I know Prem will always be cheering us on as we reach new heights, inspired by his legacy.”
Paul continuously worked with faculty and research partners to keep Nebraska on an upward trajectory and focused his efforts on strengthening the Cornhusker State. In early 2008, Paul’s title changed to reflect new responsibilities in economic development, a growing area of emphasis for the university.
“If we can win national championships in football and volleyball, why not in research?,” Paul said in a 2010 interview. “Why not capitalize on research and convert that into jobs, grow our economy and keep our young people, our kids and grandkids, here in Nebraska?”
Paul’s accomplishments include establishing a culture of excellence as a research university, helping faculty dream big and providing the infrastructure to make those dreams come true, and recognizing and celebrating the university’s research successes. He recognized the value of interdisciplinary research and established several such centers, including the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research, the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, and the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Consortium.
Former Chancellor Harvey Perlman, who retired in June, said Paul’s passion for the work was contagious among all who interacted with him.
“Many of you experienced Prem’s enthusiasm and energy as he worked with faculty to increase or to realize their ambitions,” Perlman said. “I can assure you that he infused the entire campus administration with his commitments to excellence, to high ambitions and to significant accomplishments.
“While his portfolio was research and economic development, his influence was much broader. I salute Prem, my good friend, for his tenure and service to the university.”
Before coming to Nebraska, Paul was a faculty member at Iowa State University, where he was associate vice provost for research, associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Veterinary Medicine and assistant director of the Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station.
Paul, who held a doctorate of veterinary medicine, had also served as the veterinary medical officer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa.
He served on review panels for the National Institutes of Health, the USDA, and the National Science Foundation, and was a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s xenotransplantation advisory subcommittee. Paul chaired the Coalition of EPSCoR/IDeA States and was a member of the Council on Research Policy and past president of the Council of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases.
Paul was a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American College of Veterinary Microbiologists, American Society for Virology, Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.
Paul is survived by his wife, Missi Paul; daughter Neena Paul and son-in-law Steve Lubitz of New York; son Ryan Paul of Chicago; and granddaughter Ashland.
A memorial fund, the Prem S. Paul Fund for Research Excellence, has been established at the University of Nebraska Foundation. For more information on the fund, call 402-458-1100.