LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – The University of Nebraska committee charged with finding the school’s next president has made public a list of four finalists for the position.

Following a meeting on Friday, the committee recommended the following names be forwarded to the Board of Regents for consideration: Peter Hoff, President of the University of Maine; Kim Robak, a former Nebraska lieutenant governor; Adm. Jim Ellis, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha; and James B. Milliken, a senior vice president at the University of North Carolina.

Search committee co-chair Keith Olsen said the committee met with three of the finalists in Kansas City and one in Omaha. He said any of the four candidates would be an outstanding president. The committee did not rank the candidates in order of preference, he said.

University of Nebraska at Lincoln chancellor Harvey Perlman said he felt good about the finalists and had no comment beyond that.

Robak, who served as lieutenant governor from 1993-99 under former Gov. Ben Nelson, is the only female candidate. All four candidates are white.

Robak currently serves as the university’s vice president of external affairs. Milliken had previously held that position.

Olsen said he hoped the three external candidates would not think that Robak had an inside track because she currently works for the university.

“I hope that every candidate will be judged on their merits,” he said.

The search committee’s consultant had informed all the candidates that there could be an inside candidate and none said they would withdraw because of that, Olsen said.

Hoff, 59, is the only candidate who Olsen said has no direct ties to the state.

Hoff has served as president of the University of Maine System’s flagship campus in Orono since August 1997, a tenure that is the longest for a UMaine president in 38 years. He previously held posts in the California State University System and the University System of Georgia.

Hoff was hired to remake the university’s image and boost declining revenue and falling enrollment at the Orono campus.

Enrollment has since increased by 23 percent, to 11,222 students. During the same period, research funding also has doubled and the university has spent more than $100 million on new construction and facility upgrades.

Hoff has been among the final candidates for leadership positions at two other universities in recent years.

In November, Hoff was one of five finalists for the presidency at the University of Texas-Arlington but took himself out of the running.

And in May 2002 he was one of three announced finalists for the chancellor’s position in the Oregon University System before he withdrew his name from consideration.

Current university president L. Dennis Smith, 65, announced in September that he would retire effective June 30. He plans to take one year of professional leave and then return to classroom teaching for the first time in 17 years.

AP-ES-04-30-04 1505EDT

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