An engineer will lead CWRU

Eric W. Kaler will succeed Barbara Snyder as university president.

An engineer will lead cwru

Trustees pick Eric Kaler, former president of the University of Minnesota, to be the next university president.

Seeking a key leader, Case Western Reserve University returned to the Big Ten and the engineering ranks. The Board of Trustees on Oct. 29 announced that Eric W. Kaler will succeed Barbara Snyder as university president.

 

Kaler, the former president of the University of Minnesota, is a chemical engineer with 10 patents and a deep background in research. He will join a campus that recently welcomed Dean Venkataramanan Balakrishnan, who arrived from the school of engineering at Purdue University in 2018 to lead the Case School of Engineering.

 

While Kaler’s science and engineering credentials stand out, he had other attributes that swayed the search committee, according to Fred DiSanto, chair of the CWRU Board of Trustees.

 

Kaler led the University of Minnesota to unprecedented growth in research, fundraising and graduation rates while holding down tuition increases, DiSanto said in a statement. He added that there were plenty of prospects to choose from.

 

“Our university’s growing momentum attracted an exceptional pool of candidates,” DiSanto said. “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 start his new job July 1, 2021. He succeeds Snyder, who left in September to lead the American Association of Universities after a 13-year tenure at CWRU.

 

Kaler, 64, led Minnesota’s flagship public university from 2011 to 2019 before stepping down to join the chemical engineering department. He told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis that his “strong belief in the power of research” drew him to CWRU.

 

“It is a comprehensive university,” he told Minnesota’s largest newspaper. “They have strong undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. I draw a lot of energy from interacting with students and enabling them to improve.”

 

Kaler told The Daily, CWRU’s online news source, that he never envisioned leaving Minnesota but that he grew more and more intrigued with CWRU.

 

“There is a tremendous fit,” he said, noting his work in elevating research, collaborating with hospital systems, and encouraging entrepreneurship. “Once I looked, I got more excited… [and thought] I’m really made for this job.”

 

In addition to earning 10 patents, Kaler has published more than 200 peer-reviewed

papers and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for his leadership in engineering and in higher education.

 

He was a member of the inaugural class of the National Academy of Inventors and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and American Chemical Society.

 

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

 

Sunniva Collins, MS ’91, PhD ‘95, the president of the Case Alumni Association, likes his undergraduate degree from California Institute of Technology. That, and the fact he’ll be thinking like an engineer.

“I really think he’s going to bring a different approach to things,” she said. “Engineers, they’re basically asking, ‘What’s possible?’ Anything we can think of, we can build.”

“I think he’s going to be good for the Case School of Engineering and as well as the university,” Collins said.

 

The Star Tribune expressed surprise that Kaler, an alumnus of Minnesota—known as the “U”—would leave the state at this stage in his life but said that CWRU gets an impactful administrator.

 

“In Kaler, they get a leader who shattered records for graduation rates, research grants and fundraising hauls while at the U,” the newspaper said. 

 

Kaler will start his new role just two years after stepping down as Minnesota president and amid a pandemic that has upended campus life and squeezed college budgets, the newspaper noted.

 

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

Eric and Karen Kaler

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

—Eric Kaler

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