University gears up to find Boynton chief

Ed Ehlinger left the school to head the state health department.

Kyle Potter

 

Dr. Ed Ehlinger wrote a song for each yearâÄôs awards ceremony at Boynton Health Service. He helped honor the five- to 20-year milestones of his employees by weaving their names into his song.

It was part of a quirky personality that his staff will miss.

After 15 years as director of Boynton, Ehlinger was selected by Gov. Mark Dayton to lead the Minnesota Department of Health.

Led by Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart, a new search committee is gearing up to find a replacement.

Rinehart lauded Ehlinger for his many contributions to the University of Minnesota and said he left behind big shoes to fill come August, when Rinehart hopes a successor will be chosen.

It may be impossible, said Dave Golden, BoyntonâÄôs director of public health and marketing.

“WeâÄôre going to get some different shoes,” he said.

Before becoming BoyntonâÄôs director in 1995, Ehlinger served as director of personal health services at MDH, the state agency that aims to protect, maintain and improve MinnesotansâÄô health.

Golden said he and the rest of the Boynton staff didnâÄôt know what to expect when Ehlinger came on board. He became a friend in addition to a great boss, Golden said.

“HeâÄôs somebody that I just plain like and liked working with,” Golden said.

In his 15 years as director, Ehlinger helped transform Boynton into one of the best student health programs in the nation, Rinehart said.

“[He recognized] that students cannot achieve academically if they are not in good health âÄî I think thatâÄôs always been the underlying factor here,” Rinehart said.

Boynton Chief Operating Officer Carl Anderson cited EhlingerâÄôs work to create a community health model and the development of student insurance plans.

When he took the Boynton position, Ehlinger set out to raise the importance of the health of college students.

“I think we did that,” he said.

Making the move

Ehlinger received a call from DaytonâÄôs transition team in mid-December asking if he was interested.

“There were very few jobs that I would have considered leaving Boynton for,” Ehlinger said. “The head of the state health department was one of those very few jobs.”

After officially putting in his résumé and a series of interviews with Dayton and some of his staff, Ehlinger was offered the position on New YearâÄôs Eve.

His last day at Boynton was Jan. 14, when he handed his responsibilities to Anderson, who will serve as interim director until a replacement is found.

A month into his new position, Ehlinger said heâÄôs learning a lot and having fun. About 1,500 employees report to Ehlinger at MDH âÄî seven times the size of the Boynton workforce.

“But I miss Boynton,” he added quickly. “It was a great place to be.”

The search

Much like the search that plucked Eric Kaler from New York and will put him in the presidentâÄôs office in July, the hunt to replace Ehlinger will be nationwide.

The search committee, chaired by School of Public Health Dean John Finnegan, will be finalized in the coming weeks and will include several students.

An ideal replacement will have a medical degree, a background in public health and a history working in college health programs, Rinehart said.

“We have a feeling that this is one of the top positions in the country in college health,” he said, adding that he thinks the opening will attract people in similar positions at other schools.

The committee hopes to bring several finalists to campus for a visit before the semester ends in mid-May.

Rinehart and Anderson both said EhlingerâÄôs recent appointment to a top public health position will help bring in many top-notch applicants.

Golden, too, is confident a qualified replacement will be found. He and the rest of the staff at Boynton are proud of their boss for getting a job that he deserves, Golden said.

“The stateâÄôs lucky to be getting him for some of the fun,” Golden said. “They could use some fun in state government.”