UI president finalist pledges to stick around

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 4, 2009, 10:54 A.M.

Duane Nellis, a finalist in the search for a new University of Idaho president, has assured the Moscow campus he’ll stick around if the state Board of Education picks him to fill the position.

The university has gone through five leaders, both temporary and permanent presidents, in the past six years.

Nellis, a 54-year-old provost and senior vice president at Kansas State University, visited the main campus Tuesday with his wife, Ruthie. At a public forum in Moscow, Nellis said he would like to spend the rest of his career with the school and build lasting relationships with donors, businesses and state lawmakers.

“You can’t do it if you’re only there for a few years,” Nellis said. “You need some stability. I’m looking at my next move as a president as hopefully my last move.”

Nellis was born in Eastern Washington and grew up in Montana, the Lewiston Tribune reports.

He earned his doctorate in geography at Oregon State University in 1980 before he went to teach at Kansas State and later become head of the geography department. He left in 1997 for a job at West Virginia University and returned in 2004.

Nellis is up against Montana State University Provost David Dooley for the top job at Idaho. During his visit, he acknowledged the school will have a tough time advancing new agendas amid deep budget cuts.

Colleges and universities stand to lose about $28 million under a budget Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has proposed for the next fiscal year, which begins in July. The university is prepared to cut 80 vacant positions and has also proposed eliminating or consolidating 41 academic programs.

Nellis said the university needs to be more creative and use business, industry and other private partnerships to attract more money. His role will include bringing in more donations from alumni and persuading the Legislature to doll out bigger shares of state money for the school, Nellis said.

“This university has been underdeveloped as far as fundraising opportunities,” he said.

Dooley will visit the Moscow campus Monday.

The most recent search for a new president began last year after Tim White resigned to take a job at the University of California, Riverside. Steven Daley-Laursen, a former university dean, is now interim president.

A university search committee, which includes two members of the state Board of Education, selected five finalists for the job and recommended two of the candidates visit the Moscow campus in February.

The other three finalists are Don Burnett, dean of the University of Idaho Law School; Larry Penley, former president of Colorado State University and Ham Shirvani, president of Cal State Stanislaus.

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