The University of Florida’s presidential search committee has unanimously recommended U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska as the lone finalist to become UF’s 13th president.
In a news release on Thursday, UF announced that Sasse, 50, will visit the campus on Monday to meet with students, faculty and other university stakeholders.
“I look forward to meeting him and discussing how the University can continue to support our shared goals in Gainesville,” Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe said in a text message to Mainstreet Daily News.
Sasse’s bid for UF president will eventually go before the board of trustees for a final decision, although the university did not announce when a vote will take place. The board will interview Sasse at 10 a.m. on Nov. 1 in Emerson Hall.
“This is right for the University of Florida, right for the state of Florida and right for the Sasse family,” Rahul Patel, chair of the presidential search committee, said in a statement. “Ben brings intellectual curiosity, a belief in the power and potential of American universities, and an unmatched track record of leadership spanning higher education, government and the private sector.”
Sasse earned degrees at Harvard and Yale and was a presidential appointee in the George W. Bush administration. He later served on the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, then as the president of Nebraska’s Midland University from 2010 to 2014.
Sasse, an evangelical Christian, joined the U.S. Senate as a Republican in 2015. He soon established himself as both a reliable conservative and a critic of former President Donald Trump. In a lengthy December 2020 Facebook post, Sasse denounced efforts to overturn the 2020 election and said he wrote in Mike Pence for president in both 2016 and 2020.
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times released Thursday afternoon, Sasse spoke of the opportunity to work at UF.
“Along the way I came to see the University of Florida as the most interesting university in the country,” Sasse said in the article. “It’s the most important institution in the state with the most dynamic economy in the union.”
Sasse has authored two books that landed on New York Times’ best-seller lists: The Vanishing American Adult (2017) and Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal (2018). In May, Sasse wrote a piece for The Atlantic on how to fix higher education.
Dr. Lisa Lundy serves on the presidential search committee and as a professor and undergraduate coordinator for the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication.
“What distinguished Ben Sasse from my perspective was the emphasis on innovation for UF at every level, from our national impact to a single student’s experience in and out of the classroom,” Lundy said in a statement. “Ben also uniquely appreciates the importance of UF to help advance the well-being of all Floridians.”
The university said the search committee’s process included “outreach to more than 700 leaders” in and out of higher education, including nine sitting presidents at major research universities. It did not disclose any of the other finalists and does not have to based on a new Florida law that shields finalists from public disclosure.
UF created the search committee after Kent Fuchs announced he would step down at the end of 2022. He will remain at UF as a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department.
Under Fuchs, UF broke into the Top 5 best public research universities in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. The school also faced scrutiny over academic freedom after UF officials blocked three professors from testifying as experts in a lawsuit against a voting rights law.
—J.C. Derrick contributed to this story.
Editor’s note: This has been updated.