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University of Minnesota Eric Kaler: ‘It’s time to go’

July 13, 2018
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University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler announces that he is leaving effective July 2019, during a news conference in the MacNamara Alumni Center, Friday, July 13, 2018 in Minneapolis. University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said Friday he plans to step down next summer after eight years at the school’s helm, a run that included navigating deep spending cuts while also trying to raise billions of dollars for the campuses. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said Friday he plans to step down next summer after eight years at the school’s helm, a run that included holding down tuition increases and spending while raising billions of dollars.

Kaler, 61, said he has been humbled and honored while leading the state’s flagship university. He said his tenure as president already exceeds the national average, and that he will remain president until July 1, 2019, when he will turn his focus to fundraising as president emeritus.

Kaler said at a news conference that he was stepping down because he has either accomplished or will accomplish by next July everything he set out to do when he became president in 2011.

“A good leader knows when it’s time to go. And this institution will benefit from new perspectives and new ideas that a new leader will bring,” he said.

Kaler said his major achievements included keeping undergraduate tuition increases for Minnesota residents “substantially below” the inflation rate and boosting the university’s statute as one of the country’s top public research institutions. He also said his administration “hit the reset button on Gopher athletics” with new facilities and coaching staffs in key sports.

He said he didn’t have any disappointments, but would have liked to have seen more financial support from donors and the state. He also lamented that the “biggest obstacle” facing the university and higher education in general is lower public support “and a growing sense of anti-intellectualism, or the idea that you don’t really need to go to college to be successful.”

The University of Minnesota has five campuses across the state — the Twin Cities, Crookston, Duluth, Morris and Rochester — with a total enrollment of nearly 42,000 undergraduates and nearly 13,000 graduate students in the semester of spring 2018. Kaler noted that university officials cut more than $90 million in expenses during his tenure.

Gov. Mark Dayton praised Kaler, saying he has “provided dedicated and principled leadership” to the university and the state.

The chairman of the university’s governing Board of Regents, David McMillan, also praised Kaler’s leadership, adding: “Under his presidency this institution has grown in academic stature and it’s a better place today than when he arrived.”

After he steps down as president, Kaler plans to spend a year working to build on the momentum of the university’s $4 billion Driven campaign , a philanthropic effort to raise money for students, faculty, research and outreach. The campaign is $2.9 billion toward its $4 billion goal, with less than three years remaining.

Kaler said he then plans a sabbatical before returning to his faculty position in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

McMillan said the work to search for a successor and manage the transition will begin immediately, and that the regents’ goal is to install a new president by next July.

“I’d like another Eric Kaler,” he said. “We’ll be looking for somebody with some fresh vision and fresh perspective to help us navigate what are certainly going to be some challenges but also capture opportunities.” he said.

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Associated Press writer Jeff Baenen contributed to this story.

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