Taking Office


Fall Semester will be the first at OU for new president

Lauren Fisher / For The Post

Freshmen won’t be the only ones taking their first steps onto Ohio University’s campus this fall — OU President Duane Nellis will be joining them.

Between a nearly year-long presidential search and political tensions both on campus and off, the past year has been a period of transition for OU.

Duane Nellis

Patrick Connolly | FILE

Current Ohio University President Duane Nellis, who previously served as president of Texas Tech University and of the University of Idaho, fields questions at the first of the presidential candidate open forums in Baker Center Ballroom on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016.

Nellis takes office June 12, succeeding former OU President Roderick McDavis, who left the university in February to take an executive position with AGB Search, a search firm specializing in higher education leadership. In between presidential terms, David Descutner, former University College dean, has served as interim president. His term, although short, was not without its complications.

On Feb. 1, about two weeks before McDavis left office, 70 demonstrators were arrested in Baker Center. The arrests sparked debate over the legality and appropriateness of police action that night.

About a month later, two graduate students filed a federal complaint claiming the university failed to act on reports that an English professor sexually harassed female students for more than a decade.

In both cases, legal battles and public scrutiny ensued.

In January, Nellis made his first appearance at OU in a public forum, during which he fielded questions on a number of topics including diversity and university transparency.

“One of the things that will define the success of a major, distinguished public university is a commitment to diversity and inclusion and how well you do that,” Nellis said at the forum.

Nellis, whose presidency was officially announced in February, was the only one left standing in the presidential search after the other three candidates withdrew from the race within the same week.

Before applying for president at OU, Nellis was one of the four finalists for the chancellor position at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, according to a previous Post report, although none of those candidates were selected for the position. During his time at Texas Tech, he also ran for president at the University of Wyoming but was not chosen.

Earlier in his career, Nellis served as the president of the University of Idaho from 2009-2013 and spent 22 years at Kansas State University in a number of administrative and teaching roles in the department of geography.

Taking the job at OU means Nellis and his wife will be returning to Appalachia. They lived in West Virginia when Nellis served as a dean at West Virginia University from 1997-2004.

“It truly is a tremendous honor to be the 21st president of Ohio University,” Nellis told The Post earlier this year. “Ruthie (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.”

During his first year, Nellis will receive a salary of $475,000, and will live off-campus. His wife, Ruthie, will receive a base salary of $35,000. His contract stipulates that he will be required to live in Athens County and will receive a $5,000 per month stipend to live in the residence of his choosing.

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