Site Search

Dr. Brian Maher ‘87 to Serve as Keynote Speaker at Midland University Commencement


Although his playing days on the football field for Midland University may not have propelled Dr. Brian Maher ‘87 to a career in the NFL, his time at Midland did help pave the way for a nearly 40-year career that has seen Maher impact the education field in many capacities in Nebraska and South Dakota.

Maher will be the keynote speaker for Midland University’s Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 11th, at 10 a.m. at the Wikert Event Center.

“It is a great honor to have Dr. Maher return to Midland University as our commencement speaker,” Midland University President Jody Horner said. “He has done amazing work on so many levels in the education field, and we are excited to have him share his experience with our graduates.”

Maher serves as the Nebraska Commissioner of Education, a position he has held since July 2023. A longtime educator with strong Nebraska ties, his career in education began as a teacher and coach at Elkhorn and Clarks Public Schools before becoming an administrator at Waverly, Elkhorn, and Johnson-Brock Public Schools. Maher served as superintendent with Centennial Public Schools from 1999 to 2007 before the same role with Kearney Public Schools from 2007 to 2015. Maher would later serve as superintendent of Sioux Falls School District from 2015 to 2020 before assuming the role of CEO and Executive Director of the South Dakota Board of Regents from 2020 to 2023. In his tenure as a superintendent, Maher successfully led four bond referendums in three different districts. Maher graduated from Midland with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics Education and earned his Master’s and Doctorate in Education Administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

A native of Hooper, Nebraska, Maher’s opportunity to play football, be close to home, and attend a smaller school led him to Midland. While his football career may not have taken off, his experience at Midland planted the seeds for a long, successful career in education.

“Saying I played football is using the term loosely,” he joked. “I have many old teammates who would say I got the opportunity to watch them play. But my love for teaching and coaching was spawned through athletics, especially at a young age. I figured if I couldn’t play in the NFL, I could stay close to the action as a coach, and that’s what drew me into teaching.”

Along with teaching, Maher served many years as a coach, mainly in football and basketball, before some advice from one of his colleagues got him thinking about taking the next step in his career. “I had a principal tell me I would be good at the administrative level, and it was something I should consider, so I got my Masters in Education Administration,” Maher said. “I loved teaching and coaching and never thought I would do anything else. But in many ways, I still consider myself a teacher and a coach; I just impact students differently now. No matter what level of education, you are still teaching and coaching. The skills have largely been the same, and the goal is to build relationships, have an influence, and develop positive outcomes for students.”

Throughout his educational journey, Maher has been able to impact students and teachers on large scales, whether through a single building, a district, or an entire state. “I think you have a ripple effect no matter what role you are in, but your outreach gets a little bigger,” he said.

As Nebraska Commissioner of Education, Maher considers himself an “equal parts regulator, service provider, and lobbyist.” However, like his other roles along the way, his end goal is to serve educators and students across the state best. “As a regulator, we need to make sure rules and policies that are in place are being followed,” he said. “As a service provider, we advise districts regarding special education, finance, safety, and security. As lobbyists, we spend much time working with the governor’s office and legislature to either promote or prohibit what might be making its way through the legislature.”

Maher’s dream of playing in the NFL may not have materialized, but he has been able to live out the experience through his son, Brett, who has spent the past six seasons as a kicker in the NFL, last season with the Los Angeles Rams. Brett, who kicked for the University of Nebraska, has also had stints with the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints.

“We’ve been able to get to most of his games over the years, and it’s been so much fun being a part of that,” he said. “I love college football, so watching him kick in the Big 12 and the Big 10 was fun.”

Maher said he has occasionally returned to campus over the years and maintains contact with former teammates, some of whom he considers among his best friends in the world. As he addresses a new generation of graduates, he hopes to impart the value of being part of the Midland experience. 

“I always joke with people that if I can be successful as a Midland graduate, anyone can,” he said. “The main thing I want to emphasize is everything Midland stands for, and has stood for, over a long time.”

Facebook icon Twitter icon
Back to All Posts

Related Posts

View post
View post
View post
View post
View post
View post
I Accept

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. If you continue using our website, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on this website and you agree to our Privacy Policy.