We read with alarm the recent article “Can U get new president for a bargain?” Oct. 8, in which two University of Minnesota regents suggested cutting the salary of the university’s next president by up to 40 percent. This would be penny wise but pound-foolish.
That’s because the University of Minnesota is one of the most critical statewide drivers of talent development and economic growth. Each year the U graduates thousands of engineers, scientists, MBAs, accountants and other professionals who go on to work in our strong and vibrant business community. And for many of those businesses, the university is without question their key source of college-recruited talent.
The university also keeps our state healthy. The U supplies 70 percent of our state’s doctors, over 70 percent of dentists, 70 percent of pharmacists and half of all nurses and does a nationally recognized job of placing those health care professionals in both urban and rural settings here in Minnesota.
The U is a vital part of our nation’s research infrastructure, investing nearly $1 billion in 2017 on projects that ranged from the most advanced medical research to agriculture research to help keep our Minnesota farm economy strong.
Twenty-six thousand committed employees support this vital mission — the U is the third-largest employer in the state — and they serve almost 68,000 students across five campuses.
Leading this vital institution is challenging. The president must set vision and strategy for a complex organization and deliver results across a wide range of objectives. And do it all in complete openness and under the glare of continuous publicity. It’s an all-consuming, 24/7 job that is difficult for even the most talented leaders. Yes, it is true that university president salaries have gone up over the past few decades. That’s because the stakes are high and big; important research universities like the University of Minnesota are paying to get the best leader they can.
As President Eric Kaler completes his successful eight-year tenure as president, the most important task for the University of Minnesota Board of Regents is to find the most talented and capable leader they can to lead our university. The university will need to be prepared to offer competitive compensation to compete for the best and most qualified leader. But if regents choose wisely, Minnesotans will thank them.
Doug Loon is president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. Charlie Weaver is executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership.