Former University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler has been selected as the next president of Case Western Reserve University, a private research institution in Cleveland.

Kaler, who led the U for eight years until he stepped down in summer 2019, will take the helm of the 12,000-student university on July 1, the school announced Thursday. An accomplished chemical engineer, Kaler said his "strong belief in the power of research" drew him to the job.

"It is a comprehensive university. They have strong undergraduate, graduate and professional programs," Kaler said in an interview. "I draw a lot of energy from interacting with students and enabling them to improve."

Case Western's board of trustees sought a leader with strong academic and research credentials and prolific fundraising ability.

In Kaler, they get a leader who broke records for graduation rates, research grants and fundraising hauls while at the U. But Kaler's U legacy was much debated, with critics feeling he should have done more to flatten tuition, cut costs and address a culture within the athletics department that led to back-to-back scandals.

After finishing at the U, Kaler said he never ruled out leading another institution "if the right fit came along." He will start his new role two years after stepping down as U president and amid a pandemic that has upended campus life and squeezed college budgets.

"I guess I like a challenge," Kaler said. "It's a really great opportunity. It plays to my strengths, I think."

Twitter: @ryanfaircloth