NSU Presidential Search: Collaborative Servant Leader Homeward Bound


Friends and family call him funny with a great sense of humor. Colleagues call him fair-minded and someone who can be trusted.

Dr. Darrell P. Kruger is a bilingual immigrant and first-generation college graduate. He is a semi-finalist for the Northwestern State University presidency. He hails from Eshowe, South Africa. Eshowe is the Zulu onomatopoeic expression for the sound the wind makes when it blows through the forest trees. Forested northwest Louisiana is strikingly reminiscent of his birthplace.

Darrell has lived and worked on two continents. This includes living, working, and reveling with the people, places and culture of Louisiana for 15 years. That is close to half his life in the United States. He is a cultural geographer and anthropologist. Dr. Kruger has studied Louisiana and taught about the uniqueness and diversity of the Pelican state in Louisiana, Illinois, and now in North Carolina. He and Leonie (wife of 33 years) also have a special attachment to Louisiana. They started their lives as young immigrants in Baton Rouge. Their three children were born and educated in Louisiana. They have lifelong Louisiana friends who they frequently visit in the Bayou state, most recently this past August.

He brings an impressive list of professional leadership experiences and accomplishments as a teacher and administrator. Collaboration lies at the heart of his successes. Dr. Kruger wrote in his application letter that he “…highly values collaborative leadership rooted in shared governance.” This “…collaborative team-approach resulted in several major accomplishments…” during his tenure as Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor at Appalachian State University.

Dr. Kruger brings this collaborative spirit, demonstrated higher education successes, and more than 25 years of leadership experience, “….to strengthen and further elevate NSU and the University of Louisiana System.”

Working with people for the public good energizes him. He has extensive government relations experience and success at the local, state, and federal levels. In addition, he has results. Growing resources in Illinois. Leveraging funding to strengthen K-20 geographic education in Louisiana and Illinois. Successfully advocating for passage of the $2 billion CONNECT North Carolina Bond that resulted in the construction and opening of the $70 million Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences.

He has more than 10 years of experience working with the National Geographic Society Education Foundation advocating for federal funding for geography as a core subject. He developed interpersonal skills and experience meeting with U.S. senators, representatives, and legislative staff in the Rayburn, Longworth, and Cannon Buildings in Washington D.C. This experience has translated to funding successes working with State Farm Insurance, the U.S. Department of Education, and other federal funding agencies in Illinois.

Dr. Kruger has seven years of experience traveling with faculty to Washington D.C. to meet with funding agency staff about sponsored research and grant proposals in the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. At the local level, he has worked with elected officials, town managers, and local leaders in Illinois, North Carolina, and Louisiana to propel economic development, educational, and beautification partnerships. At the university level, he has worked with faculty, staff, students, board members, alumni, and system leaders. Darrell’s people-centered and collaborative leadership approach, experience, and inter-personal skills will help grow and strengthen NSU locally, statewide, and nationally.

Darrell has many interests outside of work. Travel tops the list. He especially loves visiting and experiencing historic places. He has visited Natchitoches—the oldest European settlement in Louisiana—many times. Natchitoches meat pies are one of his favorites. His learning about and tasting Natchitoches meat pies for the first time at Lasyone’s in Natchitoches makes for a funny story best told in person. He has crisscrossed Louisiana from coastal Venice to ascending the highest point in Louisiana, Mount Driskill in Bienville parish. With the picture to prove it!

He has visited three-quarters of the 50 states and more than a dozen countries on six continents. Travel has broadened his worldview. Colleagues will tell you the ease with which he is able to relate to people on campus from a diversity of places, identities, languages, and backgrounds. Travel, being a bilingual immigrant and a life-long learner enable him to bridge perceived boundaries.

Dr. Kruger says that Louisiana has been kind to him. Exceedingly kind. Louisiana has given this adopted son three professional opportunities or shots to invoke Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. Graduate School at LSU. His first tenure-track position at ULM. His first executive leadership role at UNO. The NSU presidency is the fourth opportunity Louisiana is giving him. Serving as NSU’s 20th president would not only be an honor. It would be a way for this servant leader to pay it forward. To Louisiana. To Louisianans’.