After more than a decade of leading Nebraska Wesleyan University, President Fred Ohles has announced his decision to retire. Ohles will retire on July 1, 2019.
“Nebraska Wesleyan is prospering, thanks to President Ohles’ leadership and tireless devotion,” said Susan Gourley, chair of Nebraska Wesleyan’s Board of Governors. “During his tenure, he has positioned Nebraska Wesleyan for continued success through enrollment strength, new academic programs and experiences, new and improved facilities, and fundraising efforts. His accomplishments touch every area of the university.
“Fred and his wife, Rosemary, have been an unstoppable team and will leave a memorable imprint not only on Nebraska Wesleyan but in Lincoln and beyond,” Gourley added.
The expansion and diversification of academic programs during Ohles’ presidency has kept NWU on a steady path with 2,000 traditional undergraduate, adult and graduate students. Over the past decade, new graduate programs including an MBA, MSN/MBA and M.Ed. were introduced; social work and criminal justice programs were added to adult program offerings; and a pre-licensure BSN and criminal justice degrees were added to the traditional undergraduate programs. The university also developed and implemented a new, nationally heralded Archway Curriculum. The curriculum has been recognized as a campus model and case study with the Association of American Colleges & Universities.
Ohles has been instrumental in assuring Nebraska Wesleyan students have outstanding experiences and leave with exceptional outcomes. Adding a successful entrepreneurship program supported by The Harry & Reba Huge Foundation, expanding study abroad opportunities to universities in Estonia and Germany, supporting prestigious scholarship programs with numerous Goldwater, Fulbright and Gilman scholarship winners, Academic All-Americans and NCAA Postgraduate Scholars, and adding new opportunities for student-athletes including men’s and women’s swimming and wrestling, are just a few examples of his commitment to students.
Ohles played a significant role in Nebraska Wesleyan University’s move to be an exclusive member of NCAA Division III, joining the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2016. His hope was for every team to aspire to national championship stature. In March 2018, the men’s basketball team won the program’s first national championship.
Ohles has also been influential in expanding the university’s footprint. In 2014, NWU moved its Omaha location to the First National Bank building at 140th& Dodge to better accommodate Nebraska Wesleyan’s growing graduate and adult program offerings. In Lincoln, the university expanded to the west by adding a third theatre stage along 48thStreet and most recently, the $29 million Duane W. Acklie Hall of Science — located along 50thStreet across from Old Main. The science center will open in early 2019.
Numerous facility improvements and additions have also been made during his time including two significant residence hall renovations, as well as expansion of the Abel Stadium press box, improved spaces in the Roy G. Story Student Center, and the addition of a nursing skills lab, learning commons in Cochrane-Woods Library, and an athletic practice facility, which was completed in fall 2017.
In September 2017, Ohles led NWU in launching the public phase of Bold Designs: the Campaign for Nebraska Wesleyan University. It is the school’s first major campaign in nearly a quarter century. The $62 million campaign is the largest in Nebraska Wesleyan’s history and has already raised the funds for Duane W. Acklie Hall of Science, the O’Donnell Auditorium lighting project, has received a $1 million gift toward a work ethic scholarship, and has garnered a number of estate gifts including some that are each for $1 million and more.
These accomplishments all align with the university’s strategic plan, which Ohles helped develop and lead since beginning his presidency at Nebraska Wesleyan University in July 2007.
“I find great joy in this work,” said Ohles. “I’m glad for the numerous significant things all of us in the Nebraska Wesleyan community have achieved together.
“Nebraska Wesleyan consistently outperforms any plausible expectations of what could be accomplished here,” Ohles continued. “The exceptional success was going on long before Rosemary and I arrived here and I’m confident it will continue long after us.”
A search for the university’s 17th president will begin soon.