President Smatresk Bio
16th president of the University of North Texas, the nation's 25th largest university
President Neal J. Smatresk (pronounced SMAH tresk) became UNT’s 16th president in February 2014, marking his second university presidency. As a leader with nearly 35 years of experience in higher education, President Smatresk steers universities to national prominence by providing a high-quality affordable education, expanding research and innovation, and building strong community partnerships.
President Smatresk is focused on helping UNT fulfill its mission to provide the best education in Texas and to transform students — particularly first-generation college students — into the leaders of tomorrow. Since being established in 1890, UNT has supported industry and the state by providing an educated workforce and contributing to the state’s economic vitality and intellectual capital.
A biologist and researcher by training, President Smatresk has devoted much of his career to supporting K-20 science outreach programs and STEM development.
Located in one of the nation’s largest, fastest-growing metropolitan areas, UNT is the nation’s 25th largest university and the largest, most comprehensive university in the North Texas region with 36,000 students.
- As one of the state’s top universities for enrolling and graduating students, UNT annually graduates about 8,000 students who join UNT’s growing network of 377,000 alumni. UNT has been named one of America’s 100 Best College Buys® for 19 consecutive years.
- The Princeton Review continually names UNT as a Best in the West school.
- Forbes continually lists UNT as a Best University on its Top Colleges list. Many of UNT’s programs are internationally recognized and rank among the top. U.S. News & World Report ranks more than dozen of UNT’s programs in the Top 100.
UNT’s 1,400 distinguished faculty includes internationally recognized researchers, scholars and artists include:
- One member of the National Academy of Sciences
- One member of the National Academy of Engineering
- Two members of the National Academy of Inventors
- Nine NSF CAREER Award recipients
- 2016 Texas State Artist
- Grammy, Emmy and Pulitzer Prize winners and nominees
A Division I school, the university raised its athletic profile when the Mean Green became the Heart of Dallas Bowl football champions during its inaugural season in Conference USA in 2013-14. The Mean Green have won 30 conference championships since 2000.
- Before joining UNT, President Smatresk led the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, as president for five years and provost for two years. Under his direction, UNLV:
- Completed a $537 million fundraising campaign that included creating UNLV’s largest active scholarship program.
- Established an Academic Success Center to help students graduate on time.
- Opened Brookings Mountain West in partnership with the prestigious Brookings Institution.
- Gained approval for a medical school.
Prior to UNLV, President Smatresk was vice chancellor for academic affairs and deputy to the chancellor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa from 2004 to 2007. During his tenure, Manoa:
- Entered the ranks of the top 25 federally funded institutions.
- Gained three National Academy of Sciences members.
- Received recognition from the Chinese Ministry of Education as a Confucius Institute.
President Smatresk started his academic career at the University of Texas at Arlington and spent 22 years there, serving as:
- Dean of Science, 1998-2004
- Chair of the Department of Biology, 1994-1998
- Professor of Biology, 1982-2004
As a biologist, he concentrated his research on gaining a better understanding of how the respiratory neurobiology of vertebrates changed in the evolutionary transition from water to air breathing. His research has garnered substantial grant support and has resulted in more than 50 papers and book chapters, and grants from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. President Smatresk also has received a number of teaching awards. His undergraduate alma mater, Gettysburg College, awarded him a Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award in 2011.
- B.A., Biology, Gettysburg College, 1973
- M.A., Biology, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1978
- Ph.D., Zoology, University of Texas at Austin, Port Aransas Marine Laboratory, 1980
- Postdoctoral Trainee, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 1980-1982
- North Texas Commission Board, 2014-present
- Dallas Regional Chamber, 2014-present
- Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, 2014-present
- Denton Chamber of Commerce, 2014-present
- Denton Economic Development Partnership Board, 2014-present