New President Chosen For Ohio University

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Ohio University’s Board of Trustees named the 21st president of the university in a special meeting Wednesday morning.

Dr. Duane Nellis
Dr. Duane Nellis

Dr. Duane Nellis was unanimously approved as the successor to Dr. Roderick McDavis as president of the university.

Nellis, formerly president of Texas Tech University, was chosen from a field of four finalists, including OU’s Executive Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit.

When he begins his six-year term as president on July 1, Nellis will have an initial $475,000 annual base salary. He will received annual performance incentives “not to exceed 15 percent of the base salary,” according to documents provided by the university. His contract has not been finalized.

The result of the nine-month search process was announced during a meeting of the board at OU’s Dublin campus. Nellis expressed his appreciation for the interactions he had with the university community during the interviewing process. He said he is confident about his goals for the university.

“My vision, my priority is to take Ohio University, with the commitment collectively from all of us, to new levels of distinction and I think this institution is poised for an exciting future,” Nellis said.

OU Board of Trustees Chair David Wolfort said feedback from the community was important in the search for a new leader, and encompassed voices from the university and the city of Athens.

“(Getting feedback) was keenly important to us,” Wolfort said. “As we all know…the Athens community speaks and they speak loudly, and they were heard, so everybody was heard.”

Trustee Janetta King, who was elected to be the new chair of the trustees starting in May of this year, said on-campus visits for the finalists gave the community greater insight than anything else.

“It wasn’t just feedback looking at a resume, we wanted feedback after there was a meaningful interaction,” King said.

The new president comes to the campus during a rise in student protests, including on that ended in 70 arrests after students occupied Baker University Center.

Nellis said he supports students in their desire to “advocate their positions.”

“But I also am committed to civil discourse and I want to be respectful of different people’s opinions and creating a positive and constructive, inclusive environment,” Nellis said.

As for where the president will live, Nellis said inheriting McDavis’ residence at Coventry Lane and the previous presidents’ residence at 29 Park Place are both currently off the table.

“We will have a housing stipend that we will be provided that will provide support and we will look for our own housing off campus,” Nellis said.

The monthly housing stipend from the university is $5,000 per month. Nellis also received $1,000 per month in automobile allowance. The new First Lady, Ruthie Nellis, will received $35,000 in base salary per year.

Before becoming president at Texas Tech, Nellis served as president of the University of Idaho from 2009 to 2013, provost and senior vice president of Kansas State University from 2004 to 2009 and served as dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University from 1997-2004.

He earned doctoral and master’s degrees in geography from Oregon State University and a bachelor’s degree in earth sciences and geography from Montana State University.

A reception to welcome Nellis and his wife Ruthie to Athens will be held on March 17.