University of Minnesota Alumni Association


From the President

Pride and Promise in a Time of Transition

AS I WRITE THIS, the trees in the Twin Cities are blossoming, patio tables are filling, and students have begun posing for pictures in caps and gowns. It’s arguably the best time of year to be on campus, when graduates at all levels are visibly realizing the rewards of all their hard work.

It’s also a sign that my year as interim president of the U of M is coming to an end.

It’s been the experience of a lifetime meeting so many of the outstanding faculty, staff, students, and alumni who are both behind our success and the beneficiaries of our excellence. I thought I knew this University fairly well, since all four of my children graduated from here, but now I’ve seen the full scope of that excellence. We deliver an outstanding education, we excel in research and innovation, and we are deeply committed to engaging with community partners in every corner of the state.

When I started my term last summer, the Board of Regents outlined a set of priorities mostly centered around advancing the public perception of the University. Toward those goals, I took every opportunity to meet with the media and with Minnesota citizens to tell our story—whether at FarmFest or the State Fair. We debuted the “Dear Minnesota” marketing campaign in the fall, and that’s proving successful in elevating key measures of public perception and confidence.

I think we’ve been effective at bolstering relationships with our legislative partners at the Capitol in St. Paul, which is essential moving forward. On the health sciences front, our Letter of Intent with Fairview Health Services and
U of M Physicians is an important step in allowing us to assume ownership of the medical facilities on and near the Twin Cities campus.

As for Dr. Cunningham, I can attest that she’s eminently qualified to lead our great University.

I’m also pleased with the progress we’ve made in bolstering public safety. We used legislative funding to make safety improvements on all five of our campuses, and recently announced two new initiatives: to have UMPD respond to 911 calls in a defined area near the Twin Cities campus and to explore the creation of a new safety center in Dinkytown.

As interim president, I’ve been afforded so many great opportunities. I was able to meet with alumni and donors in Florida, Arizona, and Palm Springs. In November I was in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the presidential pardoning of the turkeys Liberty and Bell, who now reside on our Twin Cities campus in St. Paul. And I was fortunate to be able to throw out the first pitch at the Minnesota Twins game for Alumni Association Day last summer—and equally fortunate not to bounce my throw to the plate!

I’d like to thank the Board of Regents for selecting me and having the faith that we could make this presidential transition successful. I appreciate my executive team and countless others who have helped guide me in this work. I also thank former President Joan Gabel, who was very helpful to me in my five-week onboarding. I can only hope to adequately pay it forward to President-designate Rebecca Cunningham as she transitions to this role. As for Dr. Cunningham, I can attest that she’s eminently qualified to lead our great University and eager to embrace the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Just as this spring brings fulfillment and opportunity to our graduates, it’s bringing renewed hope to this great University I’ve been privileged to help lead for a year. We are well positioned to make alumni and all Minnesotans proud for decades to come.

Jeff Ettinger

Interim President

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