KEARNEY – When University of Nebraska at Kearney students got together to decide who should deliver this year’s Last Lecture, they came to a unanimous decision.
Chancellor Doug Kristensen deserved the honor. And that was before he announced his upcoming retirement.
Kristensen will speak 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7 in Copeland Hall Room 142 as part of the annual event organized by UNK’s Xi Phi chapter of Mortar Board, a national honor society for college seniors. The presentation is free and open to the public, with light refreshments provided.
The Last Lecture series honors members of the UNK faculty, staff or administration by inviting them to give a lecture on a topic of their choosing. Lecturers are asked to think about insights and wisdom they would share if they had one final opportunity to address an audience.
“Chancellor Kristensen has been at the center of UNK’s success for 22 years, and our diverse group of students has felt his impact in numerous ways,” the selection committee stated. “We recognize that he puts us, the students, at the forefront of his decisions, so it was time to put him at the forefront of ours. As we gather on Feb. 7 to hear the chancellor speak, all of us will continue to feel the legacy he leaves, not only for us, but for future groups of students at UNK.”
A Nebraska native, Kristensen has served as UNK chancellor since July 2002, building a record of strong and passionate advocacy for the university and rural communities. Under his leadership, UNK is consistently ranked among the top 10 regional public universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.
He’s also overseen a dramatic renewal of the Kearney campus, highlighted by a collaboration with the University of Nebraska Medical Center and public and private partners across the state that led to the development of the largest rural health education center in the country. Kristensen led the planning and launch of University Village, a 107-acre urban village with academic and community spaces, as well as construction of the 90,000-square-foot STEM education building Discovery Hall, central utilities plant and new residence halls, improvements to the Nebraskan Student Union and athletics and student wellness facilities, and renovations to the Bruner Hall of Science, Calvin T. Ryan Library and Warner Hall.
Kristensen became UNK’s chancellor following a distinguished 14-year career in the Nebraska Legislature. At the time of his retirement from the Legislature, he was the longest-serving speaker in history. He was one of the sponsors of the legislation that brought then-Kearney State College into the University of Nebraska System.
Kristensen earned his law degree from Drake University and bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Both of his daughters have bachelor’s degrees from UNK.
A lifelong public servant and the longest-serving chancellor in the history of the University of Nebraska, Kristensen announced in December that he will be stepping away from the position at the end of the current academic year.