LINCOLN – The Rural Health Education Complex at the University of Nebraska at Kearney will be named for UNK Chancellor Douglas Kristensen, following approval from the University of Nebraska Board of Regents during its meeting Friday in Lincoln.
The complex was named in Kristensen’s honor in recognition of his role as an ardent champion for greater Nebraska, especially in building the health sciences workforce needed to keep communities across the state vibrant. The Douglas A. Kristensen Rural Health Education Complex on UNK’s west campus includes an existing building, which opened in 2015, and the Rural Health Education Building currently under construction.
University of Nebraska System President Ted Carter and University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold recommended the complex be named for Kristensen following the wishes of the project’s lead philanthropic supporter, the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation.
“The Scott family is pleased to help recognize Doug Kristensen’s steadfast leadership and monumental contributions to UNK as well as his dedication to addressing important issues impacting Nebraska,” said John Scott, vice president of the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation. “Doug Kristensen has dedicated his career to serving Nebraska citizens, and we believe the state is infinitely better due to his leadership.”
Kristensen has served as UNK’s chancellor since July 1, 2002. He is the longest-serving chancellor in the history of the University of Nebraska. He was appointed to lead UNK following a distinguished career in the Nebraska Legislature. He was elected in 1988 to represent the 37th Legislative District and served until 2002. At the time Kristensen retired from office, he was the longest-serving speaker in the history of the Legislature.
“Thank you to the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation for their lead philanthropic investment in the Rural Health Education Complex and for the opportunity to recognize Doug Kristensen,” said Board of Regents Chairman Tim Clare of Lincoln. “He is a great Nebraska public servant who has spent his entire professional life advocating for strong rural communities and new opportunities for young people. His leadership will benefit students, our workforce and Nebraska’s quality of life for generations to come. As I have heard Chancellor Kristensen say many times, the Rural Health Education Complex will be a game-changer for Nebraska. It is only fitting that we name this remarkable facility for its most passionate champion, as was so thoughtfully requested by the William and Ruth Scott family.”
In 2010, Kristensen launched the Kearney Health Opportunities Program (KHOP) in cooperation with UNMC to recruit and educate students who are committed to returning to rural Nebraska to practice health care. This fall, a record 56 first-year students were accepted into the KHOP program. The overall acceptance rate of UNK students to various health care professional programs was more than 93% in 2022.
Kristensen championed the development of new space for the UNMC Colleges of Nursing and Allied Health Professions in Kearney as part of the Building a Healthier Nebraska initiative. The Health Science Education Complex opened on UNK’s west campus in 2015, allowing nursing students and allied health professional students to work together in a team-centered approach to rural primary care.
Since 2022, Kristensen has advocated to expand the UNK-UNMC partnership and extend programming from the UNMC Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy and Public Health to Kearney. The Rural Health Education Building, the result of a public-private partnership, is targeted for occupancy in early 2026. The $95 million facility will be located directly to the north of the existing facility.
“Chancellor Kristensen and his entire UNK team continue to be impassioned partners with UNMC in ensuring that rural Nebraska’s health workforce needs are addressed in the decades to come,” Gold said. “I’m pleased that Doug’s important work in this area will be recognized through this naming.”
Brian Hastings, president and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation, said the Douglas A. Kristensen Rural Health Education Complex will serve as an enduring tribute to the UNK chancellor.
“Chancellor Kristensen’s vision was essential to inspiring philanthropic support for both of these capital projects that now comprise the Rural Health Education Complex,” Hastings said. “Because of his leadership, rural Nebraska communities will be stronger, and future generations of Nebraskans will have improved access to quality health care. And without the generosity of the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation, none of this would have been possible, so we are most grateful for their generous philanthropic leadership.”