UNT System Board of Regents Names Harrison Keller UNT’s Next President

Monday, July 1, 2024

Commissioner Harrison Keller set to take office Aug. 1 as the university’s 17th president.

Dr. Harrison KellerThe University of North Texas System Board of Regents officially appointed Dr. Harrison Keller to lead the University of North Texas – the system’s flagship campus and the third-largest university in Texas. Today’s unanimous vote comes after Texas’ mandatory 21-day waiting period for a presidential appointment.

Dr. Keller, who currently serves as the commissioner and chief executive officer of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, will become the 17th president in UNT’s history, effective Aug. 1. He will succeed Dr. Neal Smatresk who became president of UNT in 2014.

"Having spent his career committed to elevating Texas higher education, Harrison Keller is a natural leader and innovator who is uniquely qualified to lead UNT through new levels of excellence,” Chancellor Michael R. Williams said. “Dr. Keller will bring new opportunities and national awareness to UNT that will help advance the university to its next tier of success, and he has the experience and strategic vision to strengthen UNT as a Tier One research university that puts students first.

“Dr. Keller is committed to collaborative leadership and has a deep passion for student success, and I am excited to see what UNT will accomplish next.”

Since 2019, Dr. Keller has provided statewide leadership and coordination of higher education budget and policy for the world’s eighth largest economy, and he is responsible for overhauling Texas’s strategic plan for higher education and overseeing an annual budget of more than $1.7 billion. Under his visionary leadership, he has advanced policy and programs that improve college readiness and student success — especially for low-income and first-generation students.

“I am honored by the opportunity to lead the state’s third-largest and fastest-growing university and am inspired by the openness to innovation and commitment to students among UNT System leadership, faculty and staff,” Dr. Keller said. “I look forward to engaging with the UNT community and advancing the rich history, values-centered leadership, and amazing capabilities of the University of North Texas.”

The UNT Presidential Search Advisory Committee was led by UNT System Board of Regents Chair Laura Wright, with Chancellor Williams serving as vice chair. “Dr. Keller is a leader who will build strategic partnerships, recruit world-class talent, and advance UNT’s role in meeting the demands of our region, state and nation,” Chair Wright said. “I am certain he will advance the university while remaining committed to student success, academic excellence, and growing our presence as a Tier One research university.”

Appointed by the UNT System Board of Regents and reporting to the UNT System Chancellor, the president serves as the chief executive officer of the university. The president oversees university administration and operations and sets the institution’s vision and strategic objectives, including enhancing the university’s academic excellence, strengthening its portfolio of research, scholarship, and creative activity, and fostering the university’s student-focused identity.

More about Dr. Keller

Dr. Harrison Keller is currently commissioner and chief executive officer for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He is a sixth-generation Texan with more than 25 years of experience in state budget and policy, university administration, fundraising, and building coalitions among higher education institutions, school districts, and policymakers to expand opportunity through education.

Since becoming commissioner in October 2019, Dr. Keller has led major initiatives and innovations, including working with higher education leaders, employers, and policymakers to develop the state’s current strategic plan for higher education, Building a Talent Strong Texas.

With adoption of this plan in January 2022, Texas became the first state to condition its goals for awarding higher education credentials on the economic value of those credentials to students. Dr. Keller also has worked with the governor, legislators, and higher education leaders to accelerate innovation and increase state support for student financial aid, transfer, workforce education, and research and development.

Dr. Keller is a recognized innovator in policy and programs to improve college readiness and student success, especially for low-income and first-generation students. He is the founder of the OnRamps dual enrollment initiative that provides college-level courses to tens of thousands of high school students across Texas each year. He also founded Texas OnCourse, which supports thousands of college and career advisors across the state.

Dr. Keller came to the coordinating board from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was deputy to the president for strategy and policy and a professor of practice. At UT Austin, Dr. Keller also served as vice provost for higher education policy and research and executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. Earlier in his career, Dr. Keller was a legislative aide in the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives, director of research for the Texas House, and senior education advisor for the Speaker of the Texas House.

Dr. Keller has taught at Georgetown University, St. Edward’s University, and the University of Texas at Austin. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s and Ph.D. in philosophy from Georgetown University. From 2005 to 2015, he served as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve. He and his wife, Gena Nivens Keller, currently live in Austin with their three children.

About the UNT Presidential Search Advisory Committee

The UNT Presidential Search Advisory Committee was led by UNT System Board of Regents Chair Laura Wright, with Chancellor Williams serving as vice chair. The committee also convened a series of listening sessions to solicit feedback across a spectrum of internal and external UNT stakeholders, whose input was fundamental to the development of guiding principles that helped set the aim for the committee.

The Advisory Committee members were:

  • Laura Wright (’82), UNT System Board of Regents chair – Search Chair
  • Dr. Michael R. Williams, UNT System Chancellor – Search Vice Chair
  • Sam Golden (’74), UNT Foundation Board Secretary
  • Shannon Goodman, UNT Vice President for Enrollment
  • Andy McDowall, UNT Student, Student Regent 2022-2023
  • Carlos Munguia (’79), Regent
  • Lindy Rydman (’72), Regent
  • Terri West (’82), Regent
  • Dr. Marilyn Wiley, UNT Dean of the G. Brint Ryan College of Business
  • Adam Chamberlain, Associate Professor and Faculty Senate Chair
  • Megan Wheeler, Senior Director for Special Events and Projects and Staff Senate Secretary

Staff supporting the Advisory Committee included:

  • Alberto Pimental, Managing Partner SP&A Executive Search – Search Consultant
  • Rey Rodriguez, UNT System Chief Strategy Officer
  • Rachel Barone, UNT System Chief of Staff