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Eric Kaler to step down as University of Minnesota president in 2019

July 13, 2018

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler today announced his decision to step down as President on July 1, 2019, one year before his contract expires.

Quite frankly, it is time, Kaler said in a news release issued Friday morning.

Kaler, who became president in 2011, cited what he called an incredibly demanding job, essentially seven days a week, in explaining his decision to step down a year early. I also know that the University will benefit from a fresh perspective, he said.

Kaler, 61, said he plans to spend one year as president emeritus before taking a sabbatical and returning to teaching.

Gov. Mark Dayton issued a statement after Kalers announcement, saying, President Kaler has provided dedicated and principled leadership to the University of Minnesota. All of us owe him a debt of gratitude for his very important contributions to the betterment of our University and our State.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, Kaler said, I believe strongly that a good leader knows when to step down and I feel very comfortable with this decision.

He said he had been in conversations with the Board of Regents for about the last six months. When pressed about why hes going to step down, he said, I have either accomplished or will have accomplished by the end of next year, all that I set out to do.

Board of Regents Chairman David McMillan thanked Kaler for his remarkable and extraordinary leadership of the U and for giving the board time in its search for the next president, which will begin immediately.

Asked what the regents would look for in the Us next leader, McMillan said, I would like another Eric Kaler and somebody with the full set of talents and extraordinary capabilities that this president has.

Kaler is one of the few presidents in University of Minnesota history who actually graduated from the U in his case, with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 1982. Before he took the job, he was provost of Stony Brook University in New York, a much smaller school.

In his time as president, Kaler has tangled with the state Legislature over rising tuition and weathered controversies that made headlines: Scathing reports and lingering questions about the Us handling of a patient who killed himself more than a decade earlier. Students occupying his office to protest racial and ethnic discrimination. A sexual harassment scandal that forced Kaler to send athletic director, Norwood Teague, packing and bring in teams of investigators.

Then, in 2016, allegations that football players participated in the gang rape of a female student rocked the athletic department. Although no criminal charges were filed, the university accused 10 Gophers football players of sexual misconduct after its own investigation. Five students were eventually expelled or suspended for violating the student conduct code, while the others were cleared on appeal.

State Rep. Bud Nornes, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, said gives Kaler high marks for his time as president.

It seems like there have been more controversies hes had to deal with, Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said. There has been a lot hes had to deal with and not of his own doing.

Still, Nornes said, Ive always found President Kaler to be very personable. He is a guy you can have a conversation with. Hes not aloof.

Nornes said he attended Kalers inauguration and remembers the speech he gave.

It was putting the entire university on notice that he had high expectations of faculty and other people, Nornes said. If they were not willing to be part of that vision, they could go elsewhere. He has tried to live up to that, Nornes said.

Trish Palermo, student body president for the 2017-18 school year, said she met with Kaler or his staff at least once a month.

Something I really appreciated about President Kaler was how much he valued student opinion, said Palermo, noting that he served in campus government when he was a student. I think that really played into why he was always so willing to hear the students and value what students have to say.

Palermo said Kaler and his staff did work with the Minnesota Students Association on a host of issues including a policy that forbids suspended athletes from practicing with their teams and an affirmative consent rule to clarify what constitutes sexual assault

President Kaler was a strong advocate for sexual assault prevention on campus, Palermo said. When the sex assault issues came up, I asked for a meeting and I got it the next week.

In the statement Kaler issued Friday morning, he noted that tuition at the U during his presidency rose increased by less than the rate of inflation, while the U cut more than $90 million in expenses. He touted new businesses spun out of the U and record levels of philanthropic support.

As your President, I am honored and privileged to lead an institution that directly affects the residents of the great State of Minnesota and people around the globe, he said. Our healthcare breakthroughs are historic. Our science and technology, awe inspiring. Our commitment to the arts, breathtaking. And our core mission, teaching the next generation of leaders, absolutely incredible.

All students across our five system campuses receive our support so that they can achieve their own success, their own path to a brighter future. We are, and I am, incredibly proud of them, and of our faculty and staff who support them.

He closed the statement by saying, My wife, Karen, and I both thank you for your kindness, your friendship, and most of all, your contributions to this University. I know that whatever my legacy will be, it will include the proud phrase The University of Minnesota.andthinsp;

Maura Lerner 612-673-7384

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