What a few colleagues say about Eric Kaler

Three colleagues speak

Tomorrow MPR reporter Tim Post will profile University of Minnesota presidential finalist Eric Kaler, provost of Stony Brook University.

It’ll be on the Web and air on Morning Edition, but I’ve got a few preview snippets  — comments from three people who know him.

Two praise him. One finds him hard to work with:

Frank Bates, head of the chemical engineering and material science department at the University of Minnesota. He has known Kaler for 25 years. They met while doing research in the mid-1980s.

“I have a very high opinion of him. … He’s professionally achieved what most folks in this business look for. … He was ambitious with his school work when he was here. He was ambitious as an assistant professor and as he was promoted up through the ranks as a dean. I think he likes to see systems work. He likes to see people get together and advance programs.”

Artie Shertze, chapter president of the University Professions union, Stony Brook Chapter. He has worked with Kaler on union issues over the last year and a half during some pretty tough budget discussions.

“We battle it out inside the office, (but) when we go out we (have a) genuine front of friendship and mutual respect. There’s no doubt in my mind or if I have his word on something, that it’s good and it’ll happen. And if he can’t, he’ll tell me. There’s isn’t a pretentious bone in his body. In academia I think that’s a real value.”

Fred Thiele, an Independence Party assemblyman in Long Island. He dealt with Kaler during the shutdown of its Southampton satellite campus, which is located in Thiele’s district. He considers Kaler the “architect” of the closure, and his major concern is the school spent nearly $80 million to buy the campus in 2005 — only to shut it down a few years later.

“My sense of it is that (Kaler) seems afraid or unable to deal with stakeholders that are involved in a decision. … There’s been a willingness (on our part) to try to reach a compromise with regard to the use of the Southampton campus, and I think thus far any efforts at compromise and consensus have been thwarted by the Stony Brook administration — and I see him being a part of that.”