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UMN regents select interim president candidates

Four candidates were selected by the Board of Regents for the University’s interim president position, including Jeffrey M. Ettinger, Myron Frans, Mary Holz-Clause and E. Thomas Sullivan.
Image by Liam Armstrong
The Board of Regents convene for their September meeting at the McNamara Alumni Center on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021.

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents selected four applicants to interview for the interim president position at its special meeting Thursday afternoon. 

Board members narrowed down a pool of 21 anonymous candidates to Jeffrey M. Ettinger, Myron Frans, Mary Holz-Clause and E. Thomas Sullivan after two rounds of voting. 

The Office of the Board of Regents (OBR) launched the interim president application on April 25, following President Joan Gabel’s announcement of her departure earlier last month. An interim president will be chosen after a round of interviews in front of the board next week. 

“I am thrilled with the applicant pool that we received,” board Chair Jaine Mayeron said during the meeting. “I am floored with the number of applicants we’ve received in a short window of time… we have a very robust pool.” 

Candidates were selected using a voting system where board members placed stickers on letter-labeled charts. The regents held two rounds of voting, narrowing their choices in the second round, before settling on the four candidates. 

During the board’s discussion on the applicants, many regents expressed interest in selecting candidates who have experience in higher education and government relations. That included one of the newest members, Regent Robyn Gulley. 

“I definitely found myself leaning towards candidates who have extensive experience in universities and higher education,” Gulley said at the meeting. “It’s such a big cultural shift to come from another sector.”  

Interim President Candidates 

The four selected candidates have a range in backgrounds, including politics, university administration and corporate leadership. 

Ettinger is the chair of the Hormel Foundation Board of Directors and former chief executive officer of Hormel Foods Corporation. He was also an executive fellow at the University’s Carlson School of Management. 

The Hormel Foundation has ties to the University through the Hormel Institute, which is a biomedical research department. It also is a key supporter of the University’s Future of Advanced Agricultural Research in Minnesota (FAARM) project. 

Frans is the University’s current senior vice president of finance and operations. Within this role, he serves as the University’s chief financial officer, operations officer and treasurer. 

Prior to working for the University, Frans was commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget in 2015 and 2019, and has been a private practice tax attorney for 27 years. 

The current Chancellor of the University of Minnesota-Crookston, Holz-Clause, is another candidate for the interim position. She has held numerous roles in university administration, including serving as the dean of agriculture at Cal Poly Pomona in California and as the vice president for economic development at the University of Connecticut.

Thomas Sullivan is president emeritus and professor of law and political science at the University of Vermont. He also served as the former provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University from 2004 to 2012.

New Vice President of University Services 

Board members will also vote on whether to approve Minnesota’s current Commissioner of the Department of Administration, Alice Roberts-Davis, as the new vice president of University Services at its meeting next Thursday. 

The University launched a nationwide search for a new vice president of University Services last November. If approved, Roberts-Davis will take over for the current Interim Vice President Matt Kramer, who resigned in February.  

Roberts-Davis previously served as the assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Administration and worked as a regional real estate manager at Target.  

“Alice Roberts-Davis is a highly accomplished and regarded leader with extensive experience in real estate, capital projects, facilities management and complex operation management,” Frans said in a University-wide email on Thursday.

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