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Former Naval Academy Leader is Priority Candidate For NU Presidency

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Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids, and graduated from Valley Heights High School in May of 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications.After stops at KFRM and KCLY radio in Clay Center, he joined KNDY in 2002 as a board operator and play by play announcer. Derek is now responsible for the digital content of Dierking Communications, Inc. six radio stations.In 2005 Derek joined the staff of KCFX radio in Kansas City as a production coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, which airs on over 94 radio stations across 12 Midwest states and growing. In 2018 he became the Studio Coordinator at the Cumulus Kansas City broadcast center for Kansas City Chiefs Football.

Walter “Ted” Carter Jr., a higher education executive with an extensive record of growing student and academic success, has been named the priority candidate to serve as the University of Nebraska system’s eighth president. The selection was announced Oct. 25 by the NU Board of Regents.

Carter, a retired vice admiral in the U.S. Navy, is the immediate past superintendent of his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy; a former president of the U.S. Naval War College; and a Distinguished Flying Cross and Bronze Star recipient. He was unanimously supported by both the NU Board of Regents and the 23-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee that represented faculty, students, staff, business, agriculture and other university constituencies.

His achievements in six total years as a university president include record highs in graduation rates and student diversity, improvements in the student experience, top national rankings, and success in fundraising and engagement with elected leaders.

“Admiral Carter is a proven and authentic leader with a broad range of academic and nonacademic experiences that would serve the university and the state of Nebraska well,” said Lance C. Pérez, dean of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s College of Engineering. “He is perfectly positioned to take the university to the next level in the rapidly changing landscape of higher education. I look forward to working with Ted to continue to advance the university.”

Carter immediately begins a 30-day public review period that will include forums across the state where Nebraskans will have the opportunity to meet him, ask questions and provide feedback. Details on the public events will be announced. After the conclusion of the 30-day period, if the regents deems appropriate, the board will vote on Carter’s appointment as the university’s president-elect.

Kwame Dawes, Chancellor’s Professor of English, Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner, and member of the presidential search committee, said the search process was fair and thoughtful.

“The process has been characterized by candid and strongly expressed opinions, engaging and enlightening discussions about our university system and its future, and above all its importance to our state,” Dawes said. “In the end, a remarkable sense of consensus governed the committee’s recommendation to the regents. This final stage of our process is critical both for the presumptive candidate and for our community.”

Jim Pillen, NU Regent and chair of the presidential search committee, said Carter’s character and integrity are second to none.

“He has a proven focus on the success and well-being of students, faculty and staff. He has a deep appreciation for the role and mission of higher education. And he is a public servant in every sense of the word,” said Jim Pillen, NU Regent and chair of the search. “I’m pinching myself that we have an opportunity to bring someone with Ted’s credentials and caliber to the University of Nebraska.”

Pillen and NU Regents Chairman Tim Clare of Lincoln thanked Susan Fritz, who has served as interim president since August.

“Ted Carter is a skilled, smart, strategic leader with impeccable ethics and integrity. He brings the experience and relationships necessary to lead the University of Nebraska forward and take it to even greater heights,” Clare said.

When he left the Naval Academy in July, Carter thought the role was going to be the “highest calling” of his life — then he learned of the Nebraska opening.

“The more I learned about the university, the more I read about the remarkable work of its faculty and students, the more convinced Lynda (Carter’s wife) and I became that we had found our next calling.” Carter said. “The University of Nebraska has a rich history of serving the needs of the state, and an opportunity to do even more in the future.

“I am humbled by the confidence of the search committee and Board of Regents, and I look forward to a conversation with Nebraskans about how we can make a difference for the next generation of students.”

Carter, 60, served as superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, from 2014 to 2019. He is the longest, continuously-serving superintendent in Annapolis by special request of the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations. As superintendent, the Naval Academy’s equivalent of a university president, Carter oversaw all functions of the institution, including leadership of 4,400 students and 1,500 faculty and staff, management of a $500 million budget, and oversight of academics, facilities, admissions and policy.

The Naval Academy’s Class of 2019 achieved a record-high graduation rate of 90 percent, and the academy leads the nation in yield, with more than 88 percent of prospective freshmen accepting an offer to attend. Carter also significantly advanced diversity and inclusion at the Naval Academy; of the Class of 2023, 28 percent are women and 40 percent are ethnic minorities, meaning white men are no longer the majority for the first time in the academy’s 173-year history.

Carter formed the nation’s first accredited cyber operations major and accredited a nuclear engineering major at the Naval Academy. During his tenure, the academy was ranked the nation’s No. 1 public university by Forbes Magazine.

Prior to that role, Carter was president of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, where he led 1,600 resident students, 100,000-plus distance education students and 600 faculty and staff in graduate-level education.

Carter was a successful fundraiser in both roles, working with his foundations to raise a total of $400 million in philanthropic support for academic programs. He also worked with Congress to direct $120 million toward a new cyber operations building at the Naval Academy. Carter has extensive experience briefing members of Congress.

He also authored the document that changed the Navy’s approach to suicide and sought to reduce stigmas around mental health issues. Suicide rates dropped by 25 percent a year after the steps outlined in Carter’s document were implemented.

Carter brings extensive military service, having graduated from the Navy Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) in Miramar, California, in 1985. He was commander for the Carrier Strike Group 12, in which he commanded 20 ships, two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and two carrier air wings that were deployed to Afghanistan and the Arabian Gulf. He is a naval flight officer with more than 6,300 flying hours, and has completed 2,016 carrier-arrested landings, an American record.

Carter earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and oceanography from the U.S. Naval Academy. He also has educational credentials from the 18-month-long Navy Nuclear Power School, the U.S. Air Force Air War College, the Naval War College and the Armed Forces Staff College.

Carter, the son of an English teacher, was raised in Burrillville, Rhode Island, a rural, one-high school town in the northwest corner of the state where he became an accomplished clarinetist and baritone saxophone player. He and his wife, Lynda, currently reside in Suffolk, Virginia, and have two adult children.

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