Regents name Bruininks only University president finalist

by Josh Linehan

The University’s nationwide, four-month presidential search came to an abrupt end Thursday.

At a hastily called press conference, the Board of Regents announced interim President Robert Bruininks as the lone finalist to replace the departed Mark Yudof.

The regents had appointed a 12-member search panel which narrowed a field of more than 100 applicants to between five and seven.

But in the end they looked no further than the end of their conference table.

“My vision of the University of Minnesota is to be the most outstanding public research university in the nation,” Bruininks said.

The regents, who will officially vote to accept Bruininks on Friday, were quick to praise the only finalist for his broad goals, integrity and commitment to the University.

“We have here a leader who understands this institution and who drips with integrity and ethics,” David Metzen said.

“He is a man of uncommon principle, who is competent, energetic and a person of vision,” Regent Jean Keffeler said.

Immediately after the announcement, Bruininks began a 24-hour period of meeting with different University groups. Included in his itinerary were the Faculty Consultative Committee, deans and student leaders.

Bruininks was named interim president in June following Yudof’s departure, who left to take a job as chancellor of the University of Texas System.

Originally, Bruininks said he did not want to be considered in the search process, but he didn’t hesitate accepting when he was asked to take the job Wednesday afternoon.

“I was shocked, humbled and truly honored,” Bruininks said.

Maureen Reed, the regents’ chairwoman, said the group appreciated the search committee’s hard work. In the end, however, they decided to stay at home – and go outside the search process.

“When we looked at these candidates, we thought there was someone better,” Reed said.

The search committee was allotted $250,000 to find an outside candidate. University officials aren’t yet sure how much of that was spent. Regents interviewed “a number” of candidates over the last several days, Reed said.

Bruininks also said it is unlikely he would pursue a job at another institution, meaning the president’s office could be filled for an extended period of time.

“This is my 35th year here,” he said. “I think you can count on me to stay.”

Reed said the two parties were still early in contract negotiations, and no contract terms were disclosed. Bruininks will move into Eastcliff, the official University president’s residence.

Bruininks was earning $295,000 a year while serving as interim president.

Bruininks, 60, is a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., and came to the University as an professor in 1968. He served as dean of the College of Education and Human Development and as executive vice president and provost under Yudof.

He was recently in the spotlight when he spoke at the Wellstone memorial service at Williams Arena. He eulogized his friend and colleague Mary McEvoy, who died in a plane crash with Sen. Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila and five others.

The decision came the same morning a group of five Minnesota media organizations – including The Minnesota Daily – planned to file for a temporary injunction preventing the regents from interviewing candidates in secret.

Josh Linehan covers student life and welcomes comments at [email protected]