When announced as president of the 130-year-old Midland University in 2009, Ben was 37, making him one of the youngest chief executives in American higher education. At the time, Midland was on the verge of closing. Today, Ben’s hometown college has been Nebraska’s fastest-growing school four years in a row.
Ben regards the six years he spent walking beans and detassling corn as the most formative, and the hardest, work he has ever done. After Trinity Lutheran Elementary and Fremont High School, Ben was recruited to wrestle at Harvard, and then quarterbacked the football team at Oxford. He earned a Ph.D. at Yale, where his dissertation on American conservatism during the Cold War won both the Field Prize and the George Washington Egleston Award.
He began his business career with the Boston Consulting Group, and subsequently joined McKinsey and Company, advising leaders in times of crisis. He has helped turn around companies in industries ranging from airlines to manufacturers, and has challenged failed strategies in organizations from the FBI to the government of Iraq.
Ben served in multiple posts for President George W. Bush. Most recently, he was Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the federal government’s largest agency. In that role, he crusaded tirelessly against the false promises and fiscal unsustainability of national entitlement spending. An expert on healthcare delivery, he has spent much of the last decade advising hospital boards and healthcare providers on becoming more patient-focused.
Entering his fifth year at the helm of Midland, Ben built an entrepreneurial culture at what is now Nebraska’s fastest-growing college. Since his installation, Midland has created a four-year graduation guarantee, launched an MBA program, and added a performing arts initiative and eleven new varsity athletic teams. Midland is now rescuing the bankrupt Dana College, aiming to serve even more Nebraska kids and to revitalize the historic campus in Blair.
Ben and Melissa Sasse, a former high school teacher and guidance counselor, flexschool Elizabeth (12), Alexandra (9), and Breck (2) less than a mile from where Ben grew up on the banks of the Platte River.