Former Hormel CEO Ettinger tops other finalists for interim U president job

People walk down an outdoor corridor.
People walk through an outdoor common area on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents on Monday picked former Hormel Foods CEO Jeff Ettinger to serve as interim president.

Ettinger is expected lead the U on a temporary basis while the Board of Regents searches for a new permanent president. The board looked for candidates for an interim who would not seek the position permanently.

Ten of the 12 board members voted for Ettinger, including Regent Mary Davenport.

“Ettinger is somebody from the outside, from a different point of view, a different walk in life who comes into higher education with some base knowledge, but brings something bigger,” Davenport said.

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Ettinger, who has a law degree, had the least amount of academic experience of the four finalists.

He told the board that his experience leading Hormel will translate well to the university.

”We had over 20,000 employees and an annual budget of over $9 billion, which are not far off from where the university's numbers are in that regard. I dealt with sensitive personnel matters. I've had lots of experience talking with the media of all different types.”

In his run as a DFLer for Congress in southern Minnesota's first district last year, Ettinger lost to Republican Brad Finstad.

Outgoing U president Joan Gabel starts a new job this summer as the University of Pittsburgh's chancellor.