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U of M alum Eric Kaler is sole finalist to succeed President Robert Bruininks

Eric Kaler
Eric Kaler

University of Minnesota alum Eric Kaler is the sole finalist to succeed Robert Bruininks as the institution’s next president, the Board of Regents announced today. 

Kahler’s was one of four names a selection committee forwarded to the regents. Two of the four chose not to stay in the running, at least for the moment, board Chair Clyde Allen told MinnPost. “Kahler is who we wanted to invite in first.”

A UM alum — he was awarded a Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 1982 — Kahler is currently provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Stony Brook University in New York, which is part of the State University of New York system.  

“He has very strong credentials, both academically and administratively,” said Allen. “And when we checked his references they just got stronger.”

Bruininks, president since 2002, will step down in June.

Kahler will visit the Twin Cities next week to interview with the board, meet with community groups and field questions at an public forum. The forum will run from 4 to 5:15 p.m. Wednesday at Coffman Memorial Union.

His interview with the regents the following morning also will be open to the public. Both events will be streamed on the Internet. Details can be found here.

The selection process, which began in June, has been dogged by the same controversy over transparency that arose in each of the past three presidential searches. Minnesota law says the names of finalists for the job must be made public, but top-flight candidates are often reluctant to rock the boat at their home institutions if they aren’t the top prospect for the new job.

The public, meanwhile, has a compelling interest in the quality of the pool and the thoroughness of the screening process. The Minnesota Daily recently published an excellent history of past tug-of-wars past.

During the 2002 search to replace Mark Yudof, the paper reported, the search committee selected three finalists whose names were not released to the public. Bruininks, then interim president, was not one of them. The regents gave him the position after a series of closed-door meetings.

The Daily and several other news organizations sued and eventually won the release of the names.

Plant biology professor Kate VandenBosch, chair of the standing Faculty Consultative Committee, said faculty made their top priority clear to the search committee, which included two of its members. She is impressed by Kahler’s scholarly credentials but is eager to hear him respond to questions.

“The most important thing is strong experience in academic leadership,” she said. “I’m going to be very interested in his achievements as a leader.”

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