DENTON (UNT), Texas — After a decade of transformation, University of North Texas President Neal J. Smatresk today told the UNT community that he intends to resign the presidency Aug. 1, 2024, to focus on what he loves most — teaching and mentoring students.
Smatresk, who joined UNT in February 2014, said serving as UNT president has been the highlight of his career.
“When I first took on this role, I knew we had the potential to achieve great things, and because of the dedication, passion and hard work of our faculty and staff, we have flourished in ways that are nothing short of remarkable,” he wrote to the faculty and staff at UNT.
President Smatresk has guided UNT’s transformation into one of the largest Tier One research universities in the nation with a decade of record-breaking enrollment — from 36,000 students to nearly 47,000 students in Fall 2023 — and more than 85,000 graduates have entered the workforce making an important impact on the economy.
UNT System Chancellor Michael R. Williams thanked Smatresk for his service, saying, “I am proud of the many notable accomplishments President Smatresk has made over the past decade on behalf of UNT. He has created a strong foundation and legacy that will empower UNT to achieve great success in the years to come. We are thankful for his leadership and unwavering commitment to UNT and our North Texas community.
During President Smatresk’s tenure, UNT has not just grown its student body and alumni ranks but also has experienced growth across many fronts:
- Earned Carnegie Classification as a Tier One research university and later rose in the ranks from 118 to 86 among the best and making UNT the highest ranked Tier One institution in the North Texas region
- Earned Hispanic- and Minority-Serving Institution status
- Closed the gap in minority graduation rates from 7% to 2.2%
- Launched new programs to keep university costs affordable while ensuring students have necessary support through programming such as the UNT Food Pantry, the First-Generation Success Center and the UNT One Stop to provide better admissions and financial services help to students
- Focused efforts universitywide on strengthening educational excellence and creating career-ready graduates to provide Texas with a strong workforce while helping ensure students have the knowledge to achieve their professional goals, which included expanding UNT Career Center offerings through the newly opened Satish and Yasmin Gupta Career Center at the UNT at Frisco branch campus and The Wilson Jones Career Center in the G. Brint Ryan College of Business
- Opened a branch campus in Frisco to close the gap between higher education and industry to create increased opportunities for student learning and pathways for a career-ready workforce
- Created important partnerships with numerous high-profile entities across the region and state, including the Dallas Cowboys, the PGA of America, Toyota, JPMorganChase, Google, Amazon and many others
- Funded 100 new doctoral lines to help build UNT’s research output and make UNT’s graduate programs more competitive with top tier institutions
- Reached $86 million in FY 2023 — the highest ever — in research funding from national agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation
- Secured the creation and approval of Texas voters for the Texas University Fund (TUF), which will help accelerate research innovation, keep top talent in Texas and propel UNT further into national prominence
- Joined the American Athletic Conference in July 2023 and won 23 conference championships since 2014, making many post season appearances such as winning the NIT championship in spring 2023
- Improved the campus through more than 17 major building or renovation projects such as the opening of a new University Union, two residence halls, the Biomedical Engineering Building, the College of Visual Arts and Design, Texas’ largest Advanced Air Mobility (UAAM) Test Center, as well as numerous athletic facilities through donor support
Before joining UNT, Smatresk served for four years as president at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he led the charge in helping UNLV become one of the nation's most popular universities among students and an essential resource in one of the country's fastest-growing cities. He served as the chief academic officer for the University of Hawaii at Manoa before joining UNLV. While Smatresk grew up in Buffalo, New York, he spent the first 25 years of his career in Texas, mostly at the University of Texas at Arlington. During his years at UTA, he served as a faculty member as well as chair of biology and dean of science.
A biologist, Smatresk earned a bachelor's degree from Gettysburg College, a master's degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. He conducted post-doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He has published more than 50 papers and book chapters about his research in cardiorespiratory physiology and earned many highly competitive grant awards from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.
Smatresk and his wife Debbie have two children and five grandchildren.