Case Western Reserve University selects Eric W. Kaler as new president

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Former University of Minnesota President Eric W. Kaler has been named the new Case Western Reserve University.

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“Our university’s growing momentum attracted an exceptional pool of candidates,” Board Chair Fred DiSanto said in a news release. “But Eric’s unique combination of intellect, accomplishments, and authenticity ultimately made him our unanimous choice to become Case Western Reserve’s next president.”

Kaler will replace Barbara Snyder, CWRU’s first woman president, who in her 12-year tenure eliminated a $19-million deficit, added campus buildings and helped raise $1.82 billion in donations to its “Thinking Forward” capital plan. Snyder will lead the American Association of Universities.

An accomplished chemical engineer, Kaler led the the University of Minnesota with unprecedented growth in research, fundraising and graduation rates. He was also part of the research progress that led to a state partnership known as MnDRIVE (Minnesota Discovery, Research, and InnoVation Economy). Kaler holds 10 patents and has been published more than 200 peer-reviewed papers. He is also a member and fellow of several academies including the National Academy of Engineering.

The $18 million program helped to fund research areas that aligned with industry needs and statewide challenges. Topics included robotics and advanced manufacturing, the environment, treatments for brain conditions, and, later, a statewide clinical trials network for cancer (which added $4 million per year to the allocation).

Initially, Kaler didn’t want to leave the area after stepping down as president in 2019. But after learning more about CWU, he became intrigued.

“There is a tremendous fit,” Kaler said. “Once I looked, I got more excited… [and thought] I’m really made for this job.”

David McMillan, a current regent and former chair of its board, attributes Kaler’s success in launching MnDRIVE and other initiatives were two primary factors.

“He had that kind of big-picture vision,” McMillan said in a news release.

Kaler is married to his wife, Karen, and has two adult sons —Charlie and Sam— and a nearly 4-year-old granddaughter, Ophelia.

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Former U president Kaler to lead Case Western Reserve U. in Ohio

Former University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler has been selected as the next president of Case Western Reserve University, a private research institution in Cleveland.

Kaler, who led the U for eight years until he stepped down in summer 2019, will take the helm of the 12,000-student university on July 1, the school announced Thursday. An accomplished chemical engineer, Kaler said his “strong belief in the power of research” drew him to the job.

“It is a comprehensive university. They have strong undergraduate, graduate and professional programs,” Kaler said in an interview. “I draw a lot of energy from interacting with students and enabling them to improve.”

Case Western’s board of trustees sought a leader with strong academic and research credentials and prolific fundraising ability.

In Kaler, they get a leader who broke records for graduation rates, research grants and fundraising hauls while at the U. But Kaler’s U legacy was much debated, with critics feeling he should have done more to flatten tuition, cut costs and address a culture within the athletics department that led to back-to-back scandals.

After finishing at the U, Kaler said he never ruled out leading another institution “if the right fit came along.” He will start his new role two years after stepping down as U president and amid a pandemic that has upended campus life and squeezed college budgets.

“I guess I like a challenge,” Kaler said. “It’s a really great opportunity. It plays to my strengths, I think.”

Twitter: @ryanfaircloth

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