He believes the liberal arts are the reason for a university.
Eric Kaler, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Stony Brook University, New York, has been named the University of Minnesota's 16th president. He will take office on July 1, 2011, succeeding Robert Bruininks, who is returning to a faculty position after nearly a decade of service as president.
Courtesy of Stony Brook University
Kaler, 54, earned his Ph.D. at the U of M in 1982 in chemical engineering. He is only the second U of M alum to become its president.
"The University of Minnesota has held a special place in my heart," he said. "This is an institution with an amazing history of achievement and a central place in the hearts of Minnesotans, but there are some enormous challenges on the horizon. It is truly humbling and a true honor to have this level of confidence bestowed upon me. [My wife] Karen and I look forward to getting to know this university—and this state—even better in the coming months."
Asked at one of the on-campus public interviews what role he thought the liberal arts should play at the university, he said the liberal arts are "the reason there is a university....It's an absolute core competency, and we have to protect it. I will invest in it, and they will not wane. On my watch, that will not happen."
He also commented on the CLA 2015 Committee Report to Dean Parente. "I'm extremely impressed by the recent report by the College of Liberal Arts. It outlines a clear concept on how the liberal arts should be shaped in the 21st century. I share much of what [the authors] want to do. They're committed to doing things more efficiently."
Kaler's career has been called meteoric. He received his undergraduate degree from the California Institute of Technology in 1978, and after earning his doctorate in Minnesota he went to the University of Washington to become an assistant and then an associate professor of chemical engineering. In 1989 he moved to the University of Delaware, chaired its Chemical Engineering Department and became dean of the College of Engineering. In 2007 he landed at Stony Brook, a highly ranked research university enrolling some 24,000 students, as provost and vice president.
Last year he achieved one the highest professional distinctions in his field, election to the National Academy of Engineering. He holds 10 U.S. patents; his research interests are surfactant and colloid science, statistical mechanics, and thermodynamics.
His honors include the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation, the Curtis W. McGraw Research Award from the American Society of Engineering Education, and the American Chemical Society Award in Colloid or Surface Chemistry.
Kaler was interviewed on KSTP-TV: z.umn.edu/2vr