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Susan Fritz

Susan Fritz (left) was installed as the University of Nebraska’s interim president at Friday’s Regents meeting, where Regent Chairman Tim Clare presided.

Susan Fritz officially took her place Friday as interim president of the University of Nebraska, the first female president in the system’s 51-year history.

"She is Nebraska through and through,” said Regent Chairman Timothy Clare. “The best person for the job was right here under our nose at Varner Hall.”

As interim president, Fritz, 61, will earn an annual salary of $540,000 and agreed not to submit her name as a candidate to become NU’s permanent leader, following the departure of Hank Bounds. Regents have started the process of searching for a new president.

Speakers at Fritz's installation lauded her commitment to students, research and business partnerships, to faculty and for understanding the contributions of all the campuses.

Lyle Middendorf, senior vice president and chief technical officer of LI-COR Biosciences, said Fritz has a passion and commitment to further the research and creative activities of the university’s faculty.

“Susan made it a priority to elevate the university’s academic enterprise to an elite position,” he said, noting that she was instrumental universitywide to increase research collaborations.

Gina Matkin, University of Nebraska-Lincoln associate professor of agricultural leadership, education and communication, said Fritz mentored her as a graduate student and new faculty member and understands the importance of the faculty perspective because she's been there.

Fritz grew up on a row-crop farm and cattle ranch in southern Seward County. She still owns and operates Fritz Family Farms near Crete, a corn, soybean and alfalfa farm, as well as a cow-calf operation, with her husband, Russell. Her three children and seven grandchildren all live in Nebraska.

A first-generation college student at UNL, she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, a master’s in adult education and agricultural education and a doctorate in community and human resources.

Fritz became an instructor in UNL’s Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications in 1989. She rose to department head, associate dean of the College of Natural Resources and associate vice chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

She later became interim dean and director of UNL’s Agricultural Research Division and the Nebraska Agricultural Experiment Station, then joined central administration as an associate vice president for academic affairs in 2011. She was named interim provost in 2014, a position that later became permanent.

Student Regent Aya Yousuf said it was powerful to see a woman named to the top university position.

“It’s so important for young women to see other women in leadership positions,” she said. “Thank you for showing us what’s possible.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist.

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Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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