By NELSON LAMPE
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Longtime University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman plans to step down in 2016 after more than 15 years leading the state’s largest campus, according to an email he sent Wednesday to university staff.
Perlman, 73, said he’ll leave his post after the 2015-2016 school year and return to teaching at the university’s law school.
“It has been a thrilling ride for me, largely because of your extraordinary accomplishments that have contributed to the growth and increased stature of the university,” Perlman wrote.
Perlman was appointed chancellor on April 1, 2001, after spending nearly a year as interim chancellor. He trails former Chancellor Samuel Avery in time in the top spot; Avery led the university for 19 years, starting in 1908.
Perlman oversaw UNL’s transition to the Big 10 Conference and the creation of a new research facility - the Nebraska Innovation Campus - just north of main campus on the former home of the Nebraska State Fair.
University of Nebraska Regent Hal Daub said the decision came as no surprise because Perlman had mentioned the possibility more than a year ago.
“I have watched him succeed in so many ways,” Daub said of the man he’s known since Perlman’s father bought automotive supplies from Daub’s father. “He is a positive person. He is an out-of the-box thinker. He works hard, tirelessly, to better the university.”
Regent Bob Whitehouse praised Perlman’s leadership over the years.
“He has always had the best interests of UNL in mind when he makes his decisions,” Whitehouse said.
Perlman has “done some really great things at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln,” Regent Tim Clare said, but added: “I think there’s nobody who’s irreplaceable at any institution, any place.”
Clare said he and his fellow regents will be sitting down in the future to collectively determine what attributes Perlman’s successor must have.
Regent Bob Phares said it will be important that the top candidate “be able to grasp where the UNL campus is and have a desire to not just tread water but to continually move us forward.”
Regent Howard Hawks said deep roots in academia would be an asset in a new chancellor, but “I always look for a CEO first - someone who has the skill sets necessary to lead.”
A native of York, Perlman came to the university’s College of Law in 1967 and served on the faculty until 1974, when he joined the University of Virginia Law School. He returned to Nebraska in 1983 to become dean of the law school.
While he continues to be excited about the opportunities he sees for the university, Perlman said in his email, the demands of his position weighed heavily on his decision to step aside.
“It is apparent that my age, longevity in this office and the uncertainty of my continuing tenure creates challenges for the recruitment of high-level administrators,” he wrote. “I also believe UNL could benefit from an infusion of new ideas and new energy.
“As they say in athletics, I will leave it all out on the court during this next year. Then, I hope you will allow me to fade, quietly and without fanfare, back to the law school.”