LINCOLN -- University of Nebraska President J.B. Milliken says he's not job hunting, even though the Los Angeles Times mentioned him Monday as a potential candidate to head the University of California system.
The newspaper included Milliken, “a former Wall Street attorney who is president of the University of Nebraska,” among the notable university presidents mentioned by educators as capable of leading UC.
Others on the list included Mary Sue Coleman of the University of Michigan; William Powers of the University of Texas at Austin; Kevin Reilly of the University of Wisconsin; and Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas system.
“I have not been contacted about this search,” Milliken said Monday. “While the University of California is a great university system and it's flattering to be in such good company, I am focused entirely on important work at the University of Nebraska.”
UC is searching for a successor to Mark Yudof, who plans to step down in August. A former chancellor at the University of Texas, Yudof became UC president in 2008.
Though the University of California presidency is considered one of the premier jobs in U.S. public higher education, Yudof faced great challenges during his tenure: The State of California reduced funding by about $900 million, and tuition nearly doubled.
Former NU Regent Randy Ferlic of Omaha, who is spending a few days at his second home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., said he wasted no time firing off a humorous text message to Milliken after reading the newspaper story.
“I told him, 'Unless you're God, don't even think about it, unless you desire a short lifespan,'” Ferlic said.
Other regents said they weren't surprised to see Milliken's name floated as a potential candidate.
“He's a top prospect,” said Tim Clare of Lincoln, who is the board's chairman. “I can see why other institutions would be interested in pursuing him. He's extremely knowledgeable, very approachable, and he's just done an outstanding job.”
Hal Daub of Omaha said he would “very much regret” Milliken's departure.
“He's a catch; he's a star,” Daub said. “Many national organizations that deal with postsecondary education have a very high regard for our university president.”
The regents interviewed said that while it would be naive to think Milliken wouldn't consider other jobs, they don't believe that he actively is seeking another position.
Milliken, 56, was a senior vice president at the University of North Carolina when he was appointed NU president in late 2004. A native of Fremont, Neb., he earned a law degree at New York University and worked five years on Wall Street before starting his academic career in 1988, at the University of Nebraska.
Milliken's starting salary as NU president was $270,000. He currently is paid $411,370 a year, which includes a $89,703 supplement privately financed through the University of Nebraska Foundation.
The NU Board of Regents approved a five-year extension of his contract in 2009, with an expiration of July 31, 2015.
Ferlic said he doesn't think Milliken is leaving anytime soon.
“I think he's here for a longer term,” he said. “I look for him to stay in Nebraska.”
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