Ronnie Green will retire as UNL chancellor; Ricketts, a past critic, wishes him well

By: - December 20, 2022 12:40 pm
Ronnie Green

Ronnie Green, the chancellor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for nearly seven years, announced that he would be retiring in a video with his wife. (courtesy photo University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

LINCOLN Ronnie Green, the chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for nearly the past seven years, announced Tuesday that he will retire in June, or sooner if a successor is found.

In a video, Green said that after “reflection, we reached the family decision that 2023 would be the year for Husker Jane (his wife) and I to step away from public-facing life to focus on our next chapter privately on our growing family and our faith.”

‘Debt of gratitude’

Ted Carter, president of the University of Nebraska system, said that NU owes a “debt of gratitude” to Green for his service as chancellor, and earlier as head of UNL Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources. Research spending and four-year graduation rates climbed under his watch.

The departure of Green, 61, comes a year after Gov. Pete Ricketts had said he had “lost all faith” in the chancellor, and had been “misled” by Green about an anti-racism plan adopted by the university.

ricketts press conference
Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks during a news conference. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

“I don’t believe anything he says anymore, and I don’t know how you get that back,” Ricketts was quoted a year ago by the campus newspaper, the Daily Nebraskan.

But Green’s announcement on Tuesday gave no mention of the governor’s comment, and Ricketts, during an interview with the Nebraska Examiner on Tuesday, wished him well.

“I wish Ronnie Green well in whatever his next adventure will be,” Ricketts said.

Later, when asked to elaborate, Ricketts said he was “very disappointed” that Green had misrepresented what he’d said about the “Journey to Anti-Racism” plan. The plan, the governor said, referred to Ibram Kendi, a Boston University professor who advocates for further research and academic departments of anti-racism.

‘Completely against our values’

“That would be completely against our values as Americans,” the governor said. “It was more in line with the Soviet Union rather than our free republic.”

A reference to Kendi was deleted from a later draft of the UNL policy, according to Nebraska Public Media.

Ricketts, a year ago, said Green has misrepresented his position on the anti-racism and inclusion plan, telling others that Ricketts supported it when he really didn’t.

At the time, then University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen said he was blindsided by the plan, the Daily Nebraskan reported. Pillen, a key political ally of Ricketts, will be sworn in as the next Nebraska governor on Jan. 5.

Green, in an interview this week with the Lincoln Journal Star, recognized some of the challenges the university and its leadership face, including financial and political, but said they are not unique.

Details on the selection process for a new chancellor have yet to be announced.

‘Surreal’ that farm boy got the job

Green, in his announcement, said was “almost too surreal” that a “first-generation college educated, farm boy” had been chosen to serve as UNL’s chancellor.

Carter said that NU was “fortunate that Chancellor Green has given us a runway that will give us time to chart the path forward and ensure a smooth transition of leadership.”

“I intend to conduct a rigorous national search, informed by diverse stakeholder feedback, to identify UNL’s next leader,” the NU president said.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.