The University of Nebraska Board of Regents has appointed Hank M. Bounds, a lifelong educator with a demonstrated record of expanding opportunities for students, improving higher education outcomes and efficiencies, and building successful partnerships with policymakers, donors and business leaders, as the seventh president of the University of Nebraska.
Bounds, a first-generation traditional college student who has spent his entire 25-year career in education — first as a high school teacher, then as a principal, superintendent and state superintendent — currently serves as commissioner of higher education for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. He was selected for the NU presidency among four public finalists following an extensive national search that engaged hundreds of Nebraskans, including nearly three dozen key university constituents who served on a pair of search committees tasked with assisting the Board in identifying the right candidate to build on the University of Nebraska’s impressive trajectory.
Bounds will begin his tenure as president on April 13.
“Dr. Bounds is a highly respected educator who has focused his career on helping to change lives in a way that education impacted his own opportunities,” said Regent Howard Hawks of Omaha, chair of the NU Board of Regents. “His experience as a high school teacher and principal, district and statewide school superintendent, and now chief executive of a large and diverse higher education system has prepared him exceptionally well to lead the University of Nebraska. He has earned a personal reputation as an honest and transparent leader, a hard worker and quick study, someone who is capable of being diplomatic or tough-minded depending on the circumstance, and who is expertly skilled at building collaboration and collegiality among those with competing interests.”
Since 2009, Bounds has served as the chief executive officer of Mississippi’s public university system, which includes four research universities, four regional universities and an academic health science center. Among the universities are two land-grant institutions, three historically black institutions, a law center, a school of veterinary medicine, and 200 institutes and centers. Together, the system enrolls about 85,000 students, employs more than 26,000 faculty and staff, and operates with a combined annual budget of approximately $4.5 billion including an average of more than $500 million in research and development.
“I am honored to have been selected by the Board of Regents to serve the University of Nebraska as president,” Bounds said. “In addition to boasting a rich history, the university is poised for an even brighter future as a giant in higher education and I look forward to working with the university family as it continues to serve as a catalyst for change, both in the lives of its students and the state and nation. I would also like to thank the search committees and everyone who participated in the process for inviting me to share my vision for the University of Nebraska. I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead this prestigious university. My family and I look forward to becoming Nebraskans.”
During each year of Bounds’ tenure as higher education commissioner, student enrollment and degrees awarded by the institutions in the Mississippi system have increased — by a total of 13.3 percent and 11.4 percent, respectively. He has advocated with legislative leadership for increasing faculty compensation and providing greater opportunities for students. In addition to approving an increase in appropriations to the system, the Mississippi Legislature provided a three-year bond bill to help the universities plan for capital improvements. He has provided oversight and direction for private fundraising in excess of $250 million per year.
Bounds worked with the Board of Trustees to implement a performance-based allocation model that distributes funds equitably and rewards universities for operating efficiently and achieving attainment outcomes. He designed an efficiencies plan that has saved more than $90 million primarily through consolidated insurance coverage, bond rating, energy conservation, procurement, course redesign, space management, and employee benefits consolidation. He established an internal audit function for all campuses and implemented a comprehensive diversity initiative, which has led to increased diversity in faculty/staff, students, and use of minority vendors.
Bounds has been instrumental in working with the Education Achievement Council to build momentum and integrate strategic plans to increase educational attainment in Mississippi. The Council brings together legislative leaders, business leaders and educational leaders. He led the effort to design and implement a singular, statewide articulation agreement with state community colleges. He secured $20 million in private funding to design the Center for Education Innovation which focuses on improving learning opportunities for children in communities where poverty, low educational attainment and a lack of infrastructure intersect.
He created the Office of Business and University Relations to foster relationships among researchers, business/industry and economic developers. In 2011, Bounds was tapped by the business community to chair Blueprint Mississippi 2011, a major statewide initiative to bring together diverse perspectives and create an action strategy to improve Mississippi’s competitive position. The collaborative effort was funded by the private sector in cooperation with the Mississippi Economic Council, Mississippi Partnership for Economic Development and Momentum Mississippi.
From 2005 to 2009, Bounds served as state superintendent of education in Mississippi. During this time, he spearheaded an effort to design a more rigorous state curriculum and assessment system and worked with state leaders to pass the Children First Act, legislation that was crucial to the turnaround of Mississippi’s underperforming schools. Before being named the state superintendent, he served as superintendent of the Pascagoula School District and was an adjunct professor of educational administration at the University of Southern Mississippi. He began his career in education as a high school classroom teacher and later served as a principal at three different schools in Mississippi.
Bounds grew up on a small family farm in rural South Mississippi and his service in the Army National Guard afforded him the opportunity to be the first in his immediate family to earn a college degree. He attended the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, where he received a bachelor’s degree in sports administration and secondary education and a master’s degree in educational administration. He earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
Bounds and his wife, Susie, are the parents of a son, Will, and a daughter, Caroline.
NU was assisted in its presidential search by Isaacson, Miller, a leading executive search firm in the not-for-profit sector.
James Linder has served as interim president of the University of Nebraska since May 2014, after James B. Milliken left following nearly a decade as NU’s president to become chancellor of the City University of New York.
Chairman Hawks expressed the Board’s appreciation to Dr. Linder and his wife, Karen, for their leadership and dedication to the university.
“Jim’s broad experience with the university, passion for the work of its faculty and staff, and commitment to students made him an excellent choice to lead the institution while we conducted the presidential search, and his performance has exceeded the Board’s high expectations in every regard,” Hawks said.
By mutual agreement, Linder was not eligible to be a candidate for the permanent position. He will continue to serve as interim president until Bounds arrives and then will assist with the leadership transition.
For more information on the search, go to http://nebraska.edu/presidentsearch.html.