LINCOLN, Nebraska — The official who has led Mississippi’s eight public universities since 2009 is one of four finalists for the University of Nebraska presidency.
Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds, a former principal at Pascagoula High School and Superintendent of the Pascagoula School District, said Monday that he intends to go through interviews to lead Nebraska’s three campuses and medical center.
“I am honored to have been recruited by the search firm that is representing the University of Nebraska to be the next president,” Bounds said at a forum sponsored by Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government and the Capitol press corps. “It is possibly a great opportunity for me and my family.”
A 47-year-old native of the Forrest County hamlet of Brooklyn, Bounds was state superintendent of K-12 schools from 2005 to 2009 and was superintendent of the Pascagoula school system from 2001 to 2005. Before that, he was a principal at Pascagoula High School and Lumberton High School.
“You know it’s hard to think about leaving the state where I grew up, where my family is,” he said.
The move comes shortly after Mississippi’s College Board gave Bounds his second contract extension and a raise.
Minutes show the board voted unanimously in closed session on Aug. 21 to extend Bounds’ contract for four years starting Sept. 1. In closed session on Sept. 19, the board gave Bounds a 5 percent raise starting Oct. 1, increasing his salary to more than $358,300 a year.
It’s unclear whether College Board members knew of Bounds’ candidacy for the Nebraska job when they took those actions. College Board President Aubrey Patterson of Tupelo, reached by phone Monday, declined to comment on the timing. Bounds said he’s been a candidate for about six weeks.
“Commissioner Bounds is an exceptional statewide leader in Mississippi, so it is only natural that other states would recruit someone with his talent, expertise and record of innovation,” Patterson said in a statement released by the board. “While his selection would be a great loss to our state, we appreciate his service and all he is doing to advance the state through education.”
The last salary paid to the previous Nebraska president was $420,757.