Neal Smatresk, biologist and 16th President of the University of North Texas, is a man of accomplishment, learning and progress.
He was born on July 9, 1951 in Buffalo, New York. As a student at Gettysburg College, Smatresk sang in the Gettysburg College Choir in the White House on Dec. 21, 1970 for then President of the United States, Richard Nixon; which was a foreshadowing of his accomplishments to come.
Smatresk went on to fill his education resume with degrees and honors ending with a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Texas at Austin. He studied how the respiratory neurobiology of vertebrates changed from water to air breathing evolutionarily. As a result of his study and education, he published over 50 scientific papers and book chapters in the field of marine biology and cardiorespiratory physiology. Smatresk was, and is still, a champion of science and learning.
After college, he started a career in education teaching at UT Arlington as: the dean of science from 1998 to 2004, chair of the department of biology from 1994 to 1998 and professor of biology from 1982 to 2004. Commandeering education in Texas, he would soon come back and make it his home.
Prior to becoming president of UNT, he served as the president of the University of Nevada for four years, in which he helped complete an astounding $537 million fundraising campaign that included UNLV’s largest active scholarship program. He is known to help students achieve their goals and make it easier to do so.
One of the reasons Smatresk chose to come to UNT was because of family.
“I wish I could control the timing of these things but when you get a chance to put your professional skills, a great opportunity, and your family life in one place, it’s really irresistible,” Smatresk said in an interview with FOX-5 KVVU-TV.
Smatresk became the 16th President of UNT on February 3, 2014. He was the answer for the past financial scandal at UNT in which UNT officials spent more than $83 million they shouldn’t have.
“I assure you that we are on it and that this will never happen again,” Smatresk said in an interview with the Star-Telegram.
Smatresk is known for improving the situation of a university, said Gov. Brian Sandoval. “Neal has led UNLV through a great expansion, including helping to establish UNLV’s Brookings Mountain West. His work has made southern Nevada stronger and helped increase opportunities for our state’s students.”
Part of his genius, here at UNT, Smatresk helped create the Eagle Express plan, which offers students up to $4,000 back if they graduate in four years. An incentive that would hopefully help students earn money faster, Smatresk said.
You can’t miss Neal Smatresk when he walks into a room. He is tall with a narrow face, big smile with straight white teeth, and wears dark-rimmed circular oval-shaped glasses. He’s always smiling and chatting with students and taking selfies with them.
He is highly active on Twitter, engaging with students and faculty with several tweets and retweets a day. He’s always posting pictures of students he just met and congratulating students on recent awards they have won.
During snow days at UNT, Smatresk was always on top of it and always gave a little pinch of discipline at the end. “We just decided to delay opening at #UNT until noon on Tuesday. Keep on studying!”
UNT System Chancellor, Lee Jackson, said that Neal Smatresk’s experience in leading a university and his knowledge of Texas is a “powerful combination.”