Harrison Keller will serve as the 17th president of the University of North Texas.

Keller was announced as the sole finalist for the position June 7, and the UNT System board of regents unanimously appointed him on July 1. He succeeds Neal Smatresk, who led the university for the past decade.

“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,” Keller said in a news release. “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.”

Keller will take office Aug. 1.

Explaining the role

The president serves as the CEO of the university, and oversees university administration and operations. The role is appointed by the UNT System board of regents, and the president reports to the UNT System Chancellor. The president also sets the institution’s vision and strategic objectives by enhancing the university’s academic excellence, strengthening its portfolio of research and scholarship, and fostering the university’s student-focused identity, the release states.

The search for the university system’s president was completed through the UNT Presidential Search Advisory Committee. The group was led by Laura Wright, chair of the UNT System board of regents, with Chancellor Michael Williams serving as vice chair. Its members included representatives from the board of regents as well as university faculty, staff, students, administrators and alumni.

“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,” Wright said in the release. “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.”

A closer look

Keller has served as the commissioner and CEO of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board since 2019. The board is a state agency that helps Texans obtain a postsecondary education and oversees higher education policy.

Before he was commissioner, Keller was a faculty member and administrator of The University of Texas. He has 25 years of experience in state budget and policy, the release states.