COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State University named a veteran higher education leader with extensive military experience as its next president on Tuesday, filling a leadership vacancy just as students returned to fall classes at one of the nation’s largest universities.
Walter “Ted” Carter Jr., 64, is the current president of the University of Nebraska System — another Midwestern land-grant institution with a large medical center — and former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy. He’s also a retired vice admiral who attended the Navy Fighter Weapons School, known as Top Gun, and holds the national record for carrier-arrested landings with over 2,000 mishap-free touchdowns.
“I feel like I’ve been preparing my entire life for an event that I honestly did not see coming,” Carter told gathered attendees after trustees voted him in. He said leading Ohio State is “one of the highest profile jobs in American higher education.”
He begins his new role on Jan. 1, with Executive Vice President Peter Mohler serving in an acting capacity until then.
Carter presided over a period of enrollment growth at Nebraska, including record-setting gains among underrepresented students. He launched the Nebraska Promise, a financial aid program guaranteeing full tuition coverage for low- and middle-income students, and implemented a budget that froze tuition for two years.
He said Tuesday that it’s too early to say whether he will pursue something similar in Ohio, or how a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action might affect Ohio State’s diversity goals.
Carter called himself a “straight shooter” and said he worked in an apolitical way with both parties in Nebraska.
Carter fills a vacancy at Ohio State left by the mid-contract resignation of President Kristina Johnson in November, which has gone largely unexplained. The engineer and former undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Energy had been chancellor of New York’s public university system before she joined the Buckeyes as president in 2020. She continued serving until May, when the 2022-2023 school year ended.
School leaders praised Carter as well-known for his strategic ingenuity and collaborative leadership style.
“President Carter brings an unparalleled combination of strategic leadership and true service, and we could not be more thrilled to welcome him and his family to Ohio State,” said board chair Hiroyuki Fujita, who chaired the presidential selection subcommittee.
Fujita said Ohio State’s presidential search was “exhaustive,” including 50 candidates contacted by the university and 100 individuals recommended for the job through the school’s website.
Carter said Ohio State is known around the globe for its research, teaching and commitment to service.
“The work being done across Ohio and beyond to shape the future of research and innovation, workforce development, the arts, health care, college affordability and college athletics is remarkable,” he said. “These are areas of particular passion for me, and I can’t wait to begin my journey as a Buckeye.”
Before overseeing the 70,000 students, faculty and staff in the Nebraska system, Carter led the U.S. Naval Academy as its longest continuously serving superintendent since the Civil War.
Carter earned a bachelor’s degree from the Naval Academy in physics and oceanography and served for 38 years, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star. He logged more than 6,300 flying hours including during 125 combat missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo.
He and his wife, Lynda, have been married 41 years and have two adult children.