Head of higher-ed in South Dakota announces departure

Brian Maher, who has served as the executive director of the Board of Regents since June 2020, will leave at the end of his contract this coming July.

The South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

PIERRE, S.D. — Brian Maher, the executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s public universities and specialty schools, will not be renewing his contract with the board, leaving his post in July 2023.

He will be replaced by Nathan Lukkes, the board’s chief of staff and general counsel.

“The past few years have been a wonderful complement to a career in education," Maher wrote in a press release on Feb. 28. "Beginning my professional life as first an educator, then a K-12 administrator, and now as the executive director for South Dakota's public university system, I feel especially fulfilled."

Maher began his work with the board in June 2020, where he led a task force looking at ways to improve the state’s higher education system.

Chief among these priorities was a consistent attempt to keep education affordable: students saw “nearly identical tuition rates” during the three years that Maher spent atop the Board of Regents.


Several lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Casey Crabtree, of Madison, have indicated that this trend will likely continue again this year, citing another tuition freeze as an important workforce development policy.

“We're really looking at ways that we can help students here in South Dakota fight inflation and rising interest rates,” Crabtree said in a Feb. 16 press conference. “Tuition freeze seems to be something that everybody's kind of rallying around.”

Board of Regents President Pam Roberts attributed this conversation, in part, to Maher’s leadership.

“The board tasked Maher to focus on accessibility, affordability, and retention for our public universities, and he delivered,” Roberts wrote. “These issues were at the forefront of every meaningful conversation he had with the board. We are excited to continue Maher’s work with our next executive director."

Prior to joining the Board of Regents in 2014, Lukkes served as the deputy commissioner of the South Dakota Governor's Office of Economic Development and as an attorney in Sioux Falls. Lukkes also served for ten years in the South Dakota Army National Guard.

"This departure comes with ease, knowing the Board Office is in such great hands," said Maher. "Lukkes has been a leader within the system and is highly trusted and valued."

"Only time will tell if it was a wise decision to spend these additional dollars," she wrote in a letter to lawmakers, referencing about $87 million in spending above her recommended budget.

Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or

Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at
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