Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


Just days after lawmakers added three new members to the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents, on Thursday the U's governing body selected four finalists in its search for an interim president.

The choice should be made soon so that there's at least a chance the university's new temporary leader could have some influence on current funding talks at the Legislature, although the clock could run out on this session before the interim pick is in place.

The race is on because regents must replace current President Joan Gabel, who in early April announced she was leaving to become chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh. Her departure and other leadership shifts were poorly timed, as the Star Tribune Editorial Board previously argued, in part because of the ongoing legislative session. The U is seeking historic levels of support from the state.

For that reason and more, the interim president must have strong leadership and financial skills. This is a critical budget year for the U, and state lawmakers are currently discussing the U's funding request in conference committee. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn May 22.

Regents could meet as soon as Monday to publicly interview finalists and vote on an interim choice, according to a Star Tribune report. But they might wait until Wednesday to proceed if the finalists have scheduling conflicts. They have indicated that they want an interim in place by mid-May. The interim president is expected to serve for about a year while the search continues for Gabel's eventual replacement.

Fortunately, there are strong candidates for the interim role: Myron Frans, the U's current vice president for finance and operations; Mary Holz-Clause, current Crookston chancellor; E. Thomas Sullivan, a former provost and senior vice president at the U and former president of the University of Vermont, and former DFL congressional candidate Jeffrey Ettinger, a former Hormel Foods CEO.

The U needs a top administrator with outstanding management skills who can move the university forward after Gabel's ill-timed departure. As regents have said, the interim president must have a connection to both the U and the state of Minnesota and the ability to build and maintain good relationships with lawmakers, the community, staff and campus groups.

The leadership changes come amid criticism from lawmakers and others. House Higher Education Committee chair Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, told an editorial writer that some members of his committee on both sides of the aisle have been frustrated with how the U handled its budget request and with its leadership shifts.

Some also are upset that the regents previously gave approval for Gabel to take a $130,000-per-year position on the board of Securian Financial, an insurance and financial services company that does business with the U. Under fire for that move — including from the Star Tribune Editorial Board — Gabel resigned from that position.

We hope the regents will move quickly to select an interim president who can effectively represent the U at the State Capitol, rebuild faith in the university's leadership and tackle other critical issues at the university.