Board of Regents approves Jeffrey Ettinger’s interim president contract

The Board of Regents unanimously voted Friday to finalize Ettinger’s contract and the details of Joan Gabel’s departure.

The+University+of+Minnesota+Board+of+Regents+Feb.+10%2C+2023+at+the+McNamara+Alumni+Center.

Photo by Maya Marchel-Hoff

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents Feb. 10, 2023 at the McNamara Alumni Center.

by Henry Hagen

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents unanimously approved an employment agreement with interim-President Jeffrey Ettinger at a special meeting on Friday.

Ettinger’s first day will be June 10, with an annual salary of $400,00. Outgoing President Joan Gabel makes nearly $650,000. The contract will expire June 30, 2024, but the agreement gives the University the option to end the contract early if the University’s next president is appointed before then.

“From the outset of our search for an interim leader, we reiterated now is a time for the University of Minnesota to build on the momentum we’ve created toward our long-term strategic goals and service to our students, and we are excited to have Interim President Ettinger officially join us in that effort next week,” said Board Chair Janie Mayeron in a University press release.

The agreement also included a conflict management plan for Ettinger to avoid a conflict of interest in his work with the University and the Hormel Foundation. Ettinger serves as the board chair of the Hormel Foundation, which he began after serving as the CEO of the Hormel Foods Corporation from 2005 to 2016.

The conflict management plan requires Ettinger to take a leave of absence from his position with the Hormel Foundation. This includes withdrawing himself from any financial dealings involving the Hormel Foundation, or any involvement in the administration of a current or future contract between the University of Minnesota and the Hormel Foods Corporation.

In January, Gabel resigned from the Securian Financial Board of Directors after she faced questions regarding the conflict of interest in that position against her role as University President.

The agreement also required Ettinger to resign from his position on the Board of Directors of both Ecolab and Toro Corporation.

“The conflict of interest disclosures and agreements go quite a ways to make sure the interim president will be working in the best interest of the University,” Regent Robyn Gulley said. 

Regent Mike Kenyanya praised Ettinger’s collaboration while forming this conflict management plan.

“My compliments to [Ettinger] on his willingness to be flexible and being really amenable to this process and finding a solution that’s best for the University,” Kenyanya said. “His willingness to change some of his situations, to set those conflicts aside, I think that reiterates his commitment to the institution.”

Gabel’s Departure Details Finalized

The Regents unanimously voted to approve a separation agreement with Gabel. Gabel’s last official day serving as the University’s President will be June 9.

The agreement will also pay $160,000 into Gabel’s retirement plan, which is what the University would have owed her had she stayed in the role beyond June 30. 

Gabel also agreed to vacate Eastcliff –– the University President’s official residence –– by June 27, despite her original employment agreement allowing her to stay at the residence for 60 days following her final day as President. Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) will move into Eastcliff following Gabel’s departure while a renovation of the regular governor’s residence is ongoing. 

“We thank President Gabel for her service,” Mayeron said in the release. “The U of M is positioned for success in the coming year and beyond.”