The university Board of Regents voted unanimously to nominate Walter “Ted” Carter Jr. as their priority candidate.
Carter is a retired Navy vice admiral and served as superintendent of his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy, from 2014 until this year.
"Ted's character and integrity are second to none," said University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, of Columbus, who led the search. "He has a proven focus on the success and well-being of students, faculty and staff. He has a deep appreciation for the role and mission of higher education. And is a public servant in every sense of the word."
Regent Tim Clare said Carter "is a skilled, smart, strategic leader with impeccable ethics and integrity," whose leadership will help strengthen the university.
Carter’s nomination comes amid declining enrollment at all four of the Nebraska system’s campuses, including its flagship campus in Lincoln. Just two years ago, enrollment at the Lincoln campus hit a record high of 26,079 students.
As superintendent, Carter oversaw all functions of the Naval Academy, including the leadership of 4,400 students and 1,500 faculty and staff members, and the management of a $500 million budget.
Carter's nomination triggers a 30-day public review period that will include forums throughout the state, where Nebraska residents will have the opportunity to question him and offer feedback.
After the review period, the regents will vote on whether to finalize Carter’s appointment as the president-elect.
Nebraska law previously required the university to publicly name four finalists for the presidency, but university officials successfully lobbied lawmakers in 2016 to create a more secretive process, arguing that publicly identifying finalists would scare off potential quality candidates.
The system's last full-time president was Hank Bounds, a Mississippi native who left the job in mid-August and took a faculty position at the University of South Alabama.
Another university administrator, Susan Fritz, has been serving as the Nebraska system’s interim president until a permanent replacement can be found.
Carter graduated from Navy Fighter Weapons School, known as “Top Gun,” and flew missions in the Gulf War and the Iraq War.
He earned his bachelor's degree in physics and oceanography from the Naval Academy. He also has educational credentials from the 18-month-long Navy Nuclear Power School, the Air Force War College, the Naval War College and the Armed Forces Staff College.
"The University of Nebraska has a rich history of serving the needs of the state, and an opportunity to do even more in the future," Carter, 60, said in a written statement.
“I am humbled by the confident of the search committee and the Board of Regents, and I look forward to a conversation with Nebraskans about how we can make a different for the next generation of students.”