U of M Board of Regents chair steps down, citing 'continuity of leadership'

Ken Powell, who was elected as an at-large board member in 2017, will continue to serve on the board through the remainder of his term

University of Minnesota Regent Ken Powell announced he was stepping down Monday, April 17, 2023.
Courtesy of Hunger-Free Minnesota

ST. PAUL — University of Minnesota Regent Ken Powell announced Monday, April 17, he is stepping down as chair of the university’s governing board “to support continuity of leadership” of the 12-member board, which is tasked with replacing outgoing President Joan Gabel.

Janie Mayeron, who had been serving as Board of Regents vice chair, immediately steps into the chair position. She has already called a special meeting for Thursday to take next steps in the process to select an interim president.

Powell is a former CEO of General Mills who was elected as an at-large board member in 2017. He will continue to serve on the board through the remainder of his term.

“The Minnesota Legislature is poised to elect new Regents in the coming weeks, and it is very unlikely I will be elected for a second term,” he wrote in a letter to his colleagues announcing his decision.

“Given the many consequential and urgent decisions facing us, including selecting an interim president, the presidential transition and other critically important University matters, the Board needs a leadership team now that will be in place throughout these transitions and beyond,” Powell said.


In January, Powell was left off a list of suggested candidates that was forwarded to the Legislature by a special panel that makes recommendations to state lawmakers, called the Regent Candidate Advisory Council.

That omission doesn’t preclude Powell from ultimately being selected by the Legislature for a second term, but it makes his path more difficult.

Mayeron takes over as board chair during a critical time at the state’s flagship university. The U is not only seeking a new president, but has also requested $950 million in state funding to acquire its M Health facilities in the midst of a proposed merger between Fairview Health Services and Sanford Health.

She was elected vice chair in December, after Regent Steve Sviggum stepped down from the position. Sviggum faced intense criticism after questioning whether the University of Minnesota’s Morris campus had become “too diverse.”

The Morris campus in western Minnesota has a majority white student body. About a third of students are Native Americans and about 10 percent are non-Native people of color.

In a letter to the campus community, Mayeron said selecting an interim president is the Board of Regents’ most immediate priority.

“The Board is taking a measured approach,” she wrote. “Our mission of education, research, and outreach must — and will — guide any decision the Board makes. We are committed to acting with openness and transparency to reassure you and the public that the University will maintain momentum on key priorities while reinforcing our institution’s service to all Minnesotans.”

During the special meeting called for Thursday, Mayeron said the board would also provide guidance on presidential transition planning and elect a new vice chair.

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