The Ohio University Board of Trustees unanimously selected Duane Nellis as OU’s 21st president Wednesday at the university’s Dublin campus.
Nellis, 62, was the final candidate in the search and serves as the university honors professor at Texas Tech University. His first day as OU’s president will be July 1, and he will serve a six-year term. His initial annual salary will be $475,000.
“It truly is a tremendous honor to be the 21st president of Ohio University,” Nellis said. “Ruthie (Nellis, Duane’s wife) and I are so excited to be associated with the Bobcat family, to be part of Ohio University, a very distinguished university with a very rich history.”
The board will determine any potential raise Nellis will receive, but any salary increase would not exceed 15 percent of his base salary from the previous contract year.
He said he will live off-campus with his wife Ruthie, although an exact location was not given. Nellis will have a housing allowance of $5,000 per month.
Former OU President Roderick McDavis and his wife, Deborah, lived at 31 Coventry Lane after moving out of 29 Park Place, OU’s former presidential residence, due to a bat infestation in 2015.
The other three presidential candidates — OU Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit, North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani and former University of New Mexico President Robert Frank — all dropped out of the search the week of Feb. 6.
David Descutner started serving as OU’s interim president Feb. 18, and his final day in that role is June 30. McDavis left office Feb. 17.
“He and Deborah had embodied the passion and love for all things Ohio,” Nellis said. “Ruthie and I are anxious to get started engaging with each of you as we collectively work to move one of Ohio’s and our nation’s most respected universities to new levels of success and innovation.”
During his presidential forum Jan. 10, Nellis said diversity and transparency are two vital parts of serving as university president.
During a news conference Wednesday, Nellis said research and free speech are also important to a university.
“I’m strongly supportive of the rights of students to advocate for their positions and certainly the rights for free speech,” Nellis said. “Certainly you will find me to be a person who respects that, but you know, I’m also committed to civil discourse, and I want to be respectful of different people’s opinions.”
On Feb. 1, 70 students were arrested during a demonstration at Baker Center.
Nellis is expected to attend the March Board of Trustees meeting, which is scheduled for March 16 and 17.
He served as Texas Tech’s president from June 2013 to January 2016. He expressed his frustration with Texas Tech’s leadership, describing a “bit of tension” that came from being in the same office building as the system’s chancellor, Robert Duncan, according to The Texas Tribune.
His salary during his last year as Texas Tech’s president was $444,251. His salary at the university's Honors College is $250,000.
Texas Tech, which is located in Lubbock, Texas, had nearly 36,000 total students during fall 2015, according to the university’s Office of Institutional Research.
Nellis was in the running for the presidency at the University of Wyoming during his time as Texas Tech’s president, but he was not selected for the position.
Nellis was also one of four finalists for the chancellor position at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in March 2016, but University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen chose not to pick any of the four finalists for the job.
Nellis served as the president at University of Idaho from 2009-2013. During his time there, he served on the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, which was composed of a dozen university presidents who gave their approval for the college football playoff system. The playoff system, which began during the 2014-15 season, replaced the old Bowl Championship Series.
He spent about 22 years working at Kansas State University as an administrator and professor.
Nellis earned his Ph.D. in geography from Oregon State University in 1980, his master’s in geography from Oregon State in 1977 and his bachelor’s in earth sciences and geography at Montana State University in 1976.
Nellis, who was born in Spokane, Washington, lived in West Virginia with Ruthie when he served as a dean at West Virginia University from 1997-2004. She will have a base salary of $35,000 per year.
— Kaitlin Coward contributed to this report