2019-01 From the President: UMRA seeks to contribute to the development of the University

We are pleased with the outcome of the University’s presidential search process and look forward to welcoming President-elect Joan Gabel to campus in the new year. Representing the UMRA Board, Frank Cerra and Chip Peterson participated in Gabel’s Twin Cities Campus forum in December and were favorably impressed by her background, responses to questions, and communication style. They provided a summary of their positive views on the candidate and the search process to Board of Regents Chair David MacMillan and Presidential Search Advisory Committee Chair Abdul Omari.

This support for Gabel follows two earlier efforts UMRA made to express our perspectives on the search process and the characteristics needed for the next University leader. In October, about 20 UMRA leaders had a wide-ranging exchange with Omari. And on November 16, UMRA’s views were formally published in an op-ed written by Frank Cerra and Bill Donohue (umra.umn.edu/news/2018upresident). Their letter stated that the University president must understand the complexity and impact of the University, be able to build relationships both across the campuses and with critical stakeholders, and bring energy and vision, but not a political agenda, to the position. While not everyone is pleased that only one candidate agreed to be a public finalist for the position, Gabel’s past record and articulation of the leadership challenges she is eager to assume indicate she is well suited for this position.

Raising UMRA’s profile
UMRA’s mission statement notes that in addition to supporting the welfare of U of M retirees, the organization seeks “to contribute to the development and welfare of the University and its mission and goals.” In addition, our recent retreat reaffirmed the importance of raising UMRA’s profile within the University. Decisions on leadership positions clearly are essential to University welfare and participating in these processes reminds the broader community of the resources we represent. Our members’ experience, expertise, and passion can and should contribute to these important decision-making processes. 

We plan to have the new president join us for our monthly gathering early in her tenure on campus. The search for the University’s next executive vice president and provost will commence in the coming year, and UMRA’s Board will seek to continue the engagement we accomplished this past fall.

—Jerry Rinehart, UMRA president