Saying bye to Bob

University President Bob Bruininks’ term ends July 1.

Daily Editorial Board

After serving nine years as the president of the University of Minnesota, Bob Bruininks will be stepping down this week. His term ends and the new President Eric KalerâÄôs starts July 1. BruininksâÄô term as president has had its highs and lows, from instituting an ambitious plan to improve the University to deep budget cuts from the state. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Bruininks for his service as president and wish him well as he moves back to a faculty position in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
No one can have a record of service to a single university like Bruininks without truly caring about the institution and the people there. He began as a professor at the University in 1968 and  over his more than 40 years of service has turned down offers to apply for presidential openings at other schools to stay at the University âÄî something he deserves much credit for.
We do have some criticisms of some of BruininksâÄô decisions as president âÄî we would like the next administration to be more open and transparent with information, restore the balance between research and education and cut nonacademic spending, among other things. But we donâÄôt doubt for a moment that Bruininks managed the University in a way he thought would produce the best outcomes for everyone it serves.
Bruininks faced an extremely challenging set of circumstances from the state, which all but abandoned its commitment to higher education during his tenure. Major cuts to state funding forced the University into several budget predicaments which forced students to pick up the stateâÄôs slack. BruininksâÄô efforts to raise private funds for scholarships, however, mitigated that burden for students through the U Promise scholarship program and scholarship money raised as part of donations to build a new football stadium.
In 2005, Bruininks began a strategic positioning initiative that aimed to make the University one of the top three research universities in the world. This was an ambitious plan that would force the University to look closely at its weaknesses and find areas to improve. Bruininks deserves credit for not being afraid to challenge himself and the University in this respect. His willingness to subject the University to critical evaluation in order to improve it is commendable, and we hope the new president has the same ambition to make the education at the University world-class.
The University now boasts a state-of-the-art biomedical research center, and University research spending has increased significantly since 2004. University research has led to medical advances that aid people all over the world. And since Bruininks took office, four-year graduation rates have increased by 15 percent. Students are heading out into the world sooner and some students who might never have graduated at all were able to walk across the stage and receive degrees.
Bruininks left no small impact on the University. The General College was dissolved and the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences and the College of Design were created during his tenure. New buildings like the Science Teaching and Student Services building and TCF Bank Stadium went up while others were torn down. He brought new emphasis to areas like research and retaining students.
Bob Bruininks was not merely a steward; he was an active president who played a distinct and positive role in a University about which he clearly cared deeply. We wish him the best during his well-deserved break and in his new faculty position where he will continue to serve the University.