Regents approve Gabel as next U of M president

University of South Carolina Provost Joan Gabel meets with staff members Monday, Dec. 12, during her first visit to the University of Minnesota since she was named the lone finalist to succeed Eric Kaler as president. Josh Verges / Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS - A lawyer, business school dean and South Carolina provost will be the first woman to lead the University of Minnesota as president.

The Board of Regents voted unanimously Tuesday, Dec. 18, to name Joan Gabel its 17th president.

“Right after she interviewed, I knew it was going to be her,” said Steve Sviggum, one of three regents to serve on the search committee.

Gabel, 50, was one of four people forwarded to the full Board of Regents for consideration but the only one to be named. One candidate quickly dropped out. Two others refused to go forward unless they were going to be the sole finalist.

Regent Darrin Rosha said he still has concerns about that process but he is “thoroughly impressed” by Gabel, calling her “engaging and remarkably bright.”

Regent Linda Cohen said hiring a woman as president is “a bonus” and “very, very exciting.”

Gabel plans to keep working for the University of South Carolina through June before joining the U on July 1. The U will pay for any unpaid leave she takes in order to transition to her new job.

President Eric Kaler announced last summer he would move into a one-year fundraising role in July before joining the faculty.

As a fundraiser, Kaler’s total compensation next year will exceed that of Gabel.

Regents agreed to pay Gabel a $640,000 salary, plus annual $150,000 retirement supplements that will grow by $5,000 per year in the third year of her contract.

Kaler’s salary is $625,250, but his supplemental retirement grows from $225,000 this year to $325,000 next year.

His first contract with the U, in 2012-13, paid him $610,000 plus $50,000 toward retirement each year.

Kaler was hired on a four-year contract. Gabel starts with a five-year deal.

Regents also will have the option of awarding a performance bonus during Gabel’s annual reviews. That was not in Kaler’s contract.

Gabel spent last week visiting each of the five campuses before interviewing with the Board of Regents.

“I have known for a while now that the University of Minnesota is where my family and I want to be,” she said. “But after traveling across this state, meeting so many people who love the university and seeing how our research, teaching and service have real impact here and beyond, I’m even more excited to join this community.”