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UNT names Harrison Keller as finalist for president

A sign that reads UNT University of North Texas with the mascot of a large bird.
The University of North Texas campus.

The University of North Texas Board of Regents has named the sole finalist to fill the office of the university president. Regents announced Friday that Harrison Keller will become the 17th president in the university’s history and will succeed Neal Smatresk.

Keller has served as the commissioner and chief executive officer of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board since 2019.

Smatresk has led UNT as president since 2014. He announced his resignation in February and plans to step down Aug. 1.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board appoints the role of commissioner and CEO, and Keller’s role was to provide leadership and coordination of higher education budget and policy for Texas. Keller facilitated the state’s strategic plan for higher education and supervised an annual budget of more than $1.7 billion.

“Harrison Keller has spent his career committed to improving Texas higher education,” UNT Chancellor Michael R. Williams said in a news release. “His ability to lead, innovate, and partner both statewide and nationally has helped transform Texas higher education and will have an invaluable impact on UNT. This is an important moment for our System’s flagship institution as UNT continues to provide high-quality, comprehensive educational and research opportunities for Texas. We’re confident Dr. Keller has the breadth of experience and strategic vision to advance UNT into its next tier of success.”

Keller said in a statement that he looks forward to taking the helm at UNT, which is the third largest institution of higher education in Texas.

“I am honored and excited by the opportunity to lead this remarkable university,” Keller said. “Across the nation, not many universities have the scale, capabilities, and potential of the University of North Texas. For the Dallas-Fort Worth area and across the state, UNT is uniquely positioned to expand opportunities through innovative, excellent programs and strategic partnerships. I look forward to connecting with students, faculty, staff, and alumni to emphasize UNT’s deep commitment to transform lives through excellence, curiosity, and innovation.”

UNT conducted a national search for its next president. The president serves as the chief executive officer of the university and oversees university administration and operations. The president also sets the institution’s vision and strategic objectives, including enhancing its academic excellence, strengthening its portfolio of research, scholarship and creative activity, and fostering the university’s student-focused identity.

State law requires university governing boards to name a sole finalist for a presidency at least 21 days before making a permanent appointment.

The Board of Regents is expected to finalize its selection the week of July 1.