Dr. Dan, Elaine Hanson announce plans to retire from Peru State College

Julie Davis
Nebraska City News-Press

The Nebraska State College System is conducting a search for Peru State College’s 34th president following President Dan Hanson’s retirement announcement to the Peru community on Oct. 30.

After 12 years of service to Peru State College and southeast Nebraska, Dr. Hanson will leave the role on June 30, 2021. 

In a letter announcing their intentions to retire to the Peru State community, President Dan Hanson and First Lady Elaine Hanson said, “Serving as President and First Lady for over a decade has been the privilege of a lifetime. Partnering with Peru State’s outstanding faculty, staff, and administrators, completely committed to transforming lives through personal and engaging educational experiences, has been a distinct honor. We can think of no better way to have invested our time and our lives.”

“President Hanson and his wife Elaine genuinely embody the servant leadership role of a couple committed to creating a community on the Peru State campus,” said Chancellor Paul Turman of the Nebraska State College System.

“From ice cream socials at their home, to filling sandbags in preparation for the 2019 floods, they have been pillars of the community, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to learn from their strength and dedication,” said Turman.

“Peru State has been forever changed because of President and First Lady Hanson,” he said.

“The Board sincerely thanks President Hanson for his dedication to Peru State College and Southeast Nebraska for the past decade. His ability to lead by example and to truly serve the community of Peru will be greatly missed,” said Gary Bieganski, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State Colleges.

Here are some of the Hansons’ accomplishments during their 12 years at Peru State:

More than 4,450 degrees awarded – Peru State College averaged just under 500 graduates each year with a dramatic increase in the number of transfer students completing their degrees at Peru.

More than $48.6 Million in Capital Improvements – During President Hanson’s tenure, Peru State has invested in the campus by renovating several buildings including the Performing Arts Center, the Field House, Delzell Hall, the Park Avenue Entrance, T.J. Majors Hall, Oak Bowl Stadium, and Eliza Morgan Hall.

Active Member of Peru Community – President Hanson has been very active in the community of Peru, including his involvement in the long-term recovery group created in response to the 2019 flood and levee breach. He advocated the importance of levee repairs to state and federal leaders.

Fall 2019 – Peru State College recruited its largest incoming freshman class in more than 30 years.

Corrections Workforce – Under President Hanson’s leadership, Peru State College is poised to begin an innovative and first of its kind partnership with the Department of Correctional Services. The four-year academic program will prepare students interested in a career in correctional services with the leadership skills and education needed to succeed.

Career Scholarships – The College is also in its inaugural year of the Career Scholarships, offering students more opportunities than ever before to prepare for a high-demand career with minimal to no debt.

Hanson oversees more than 160 employees and a student body of 2,400-plus. His purview includes the Peru State College Foundation, 13 NAIA Division I athletic teams, the Campus of a Thousand Oaks Nebraska Statewide Arboretum and the college’s innovative mix of traditional and online, graduate and undergraduate programs of study.

Under President Hanson’s leadership, the college has adopted two distinct strategic plans to provide students with exceptional engaged-learning opportunities and many students have received national awards. Those plans have also guided the continuing investment (of more than $85 million) in campus infrastructure to improve the campus experience for students.

Since the college’s sesquicentennial year, Peru State is seeking to build on historic enrollments and excellent accreditation reports from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

Elaine Hanson also adopted this commitment to engage every student – the Hansons host every freshman student in their home as part of College 101.

She started Peru State’s Rotaract Club and secured sponsorship of the club by local Rotary Clubs. In addition, Elaine serves on numerous boards in the region; she also sponsors or helps coordinate service projects on and off campus.

Prior to his arrival at Peru State College, Dan Hanson served at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. His career included service as director of academic computing, associate professor of computer information systems and vice president for academic affairs.

Hanson earned his doctorate from Iowa State University, a master of science from Mankato State University, a bachelor’s from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, and an associate’s degree from Waldorf College.

Highlights of Elaine Hanson’s career include establishing a volunteer program at Forest City Good Samaritan Society, leading the Values Clarification Task Force at Hospice of North Iowa and chairing the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service. She also administered a National Service Program, leading it to be in the top 2 percent of the nation.

Dan and Elaine have been married for more than 40 years. They have two daughters, two sons-in-law (including a Peru State alum), and four grandchildren.