The son of a drywall construction contractor, John Christensen didn’t expect to go to college, get a doctorate, become a professor, then lead the biggest university in his hometown.
Christensen, an average student at Benson High School who was unmotivated to study and excel, was transformed through nudges and experience.
Now Christensen is in his final year of a decade as chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. At 68, he announced he would step down in mid-2017 to spend more time with family, especially his seven grandchildren.
Christensen has overseen big changes at UNO. He regained campus and community trust with his everyman demeanor. He increased programs, improved retention and graduation rates, and added campus facilities. He expanded UNO’s presence south of Pacific Street.
Today The World-Herald honors Christensen, an Omaha native who achieved excellence in academia, as its Midlander of the Year.