New U of M President Joan Gabel gives inaugural address

New U of M President Joan Gabel gives inaugural address Photo: KSTP

Updated: September 20, 2019 08:00 PM

The University of Minnesota officially welcomed its new president into office today.


A special ceremony was held for Joan Gabel capping off an entire welcome week of events for the new university leader.

Gabel was sworn in as the U of M's 17th president, and is the first woman to hold that position.

In her inaugural address President Gabel said she is filled with optimism. She also said the story and collective future of the university must be earned.

President Gabel joined students, staff and alumni in a procession along Scholars Walk from the McNamara Alumni Center toward the Northrup Mall. 

In her address, Gabel said:

"Today's important marker in history comes at a significant time in higher education, across our nation there is palpable energy around how we serve our students and communities, how we channel our curiosity and scholarship into meaningful inquiries and solutions. Underlying these considerations is heightened questions around cost, access and relevance leading some states and institutions to respond with deep funding cuts and the elimination of programs, often with a focus on revenue rather than quality. While recognizing these national trends and the fact that no institution is immune from these headwinds, our university is prepared to meet these challenges and advance during this important moment."

Gabel said in her speech, she'll focus on student access and affordability:

"We stand here together on the forward edge of our history. Ours is a story that will be written first by a commitment to educational excellence, an excellence that values accessibility and affordability, an excellence that develops and graduates learners with the skills they need to maximize their potential throughout their lives in a rapidly changing world."

At Friday's inauguration 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS caught up with Lisa Lewis, President and CEO of the U of M Alumni Association. She said, "It's an historic moment for the University of Minnesota. And the presence of all of these people, faculty, staff, students, alumni, we all know it and we're very excited."

After her inaugural address, Gabel told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, one of her top priorities will be a focus on student mental health, and said one of her biggest challenges ahead would be looking for opportunities to maximize student success. 

During Friday formal ceremony installing Gabel, Governor Tim Walz said, "President Gabel, by the power invested in me as the Governor of the State of Minnesota, I present you with...a symbol of leadership. May it help you lead the university to a bright future serving our state from today and far into the future. Congratulations."

Inauguration ceremony set for U of M president Gabel

In her address, Gabel also said:

"We stand here together on the forward edge of our history...Ours is story that will be written by our commitment to a community and a culture that is inclusive and shaped by equity, diversity and dignity of people and ideas."

Gabel is the first woman to hold the position as president of the U of M. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS asked Gabel in which ways her position is historic to her. Gable said:

"The institution is nearly 170 years old and has only had 17 presidents and when I think about that, I sort of have a moment, I must say, where you think about legacy and longevity...For me, the historic nature of the moment is also an opportunity to make sure whoever is inaugurated 170 years from now has an institution that they are incredibly excited and optimistic about."

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS caught up with University of Minnesota Board of Regents At-Large Representative Mike Kenyanya at the inauguration ceremony on Friday. He said: "We're excited to have Joan here and her leadership, and see where she takes us...This inauguration is the university's. Joan is being inaugurated, we are excited to have President Gabel, but it's really the university – you see the students – you see the staff, faculty, alumni and everyone enjoying, and that's what it's all about."

New U of M president outlines goals to Board of Regents

The celebration marked a sense of community, with Gabel saying during her inaugural address:

"Having the honor of a moment like the one I'm having right now, is thanks to all of you."

As an extension of her inauguration, Gabel plans to visit each campus this fall to highlight their unique community impact. 

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Brandi Powell

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