By Christiane Cordero

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The University of Minnesota has a new incoming president and it’s one for the history books.

On Tuesday morning, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents unanimously approved a five-year contract for Joan Gabel as the university’s 17th president.

It makes her the first woman to serve as president of the university.

The board also approved a pay package that includes a salary of $640,000 a year, which is $15,000 higher than the current salary of the outgoing president Eric Kaler.

Gabel, currently the provost at the University of South Carolina, was the only finalist for the job. She is set to take office next July.

Gabel was present for the vote Tuesday morning, and there was applause after the unanimous vote was received and the president-designate greeted the Regents.

She used humor to deflect the historic nature of the selection.

“I have never not been a woman so that is just my life experience, and I feel incredibly humbled and excited to be the University of Minnesota,” she said. “I have known for a while now that the University of Minnesota is where my family and I want to be. But after traveling across this state, meeting so many people who love the University and seeing how our research, teaching and service have real impact here and beyond, I’m even more excited to join this community and I’m honored to be named the next President of the University of Minnesota.”

The moment was not lost on those in the room. Margaret Sughrue Carlson was the president of the university’s alumni association for 25 years.

“Honestly I was not sure that this day would happen, and I am bursting with pride,” she said.

Students also voiced their support.

“From what I have heard she has a genuine interest in serving at the University of Minnesota,” undergraduate James Farnsworth said.

Students told WCCO their priorities include safety both on and off campus and college affordability. Under questioning from reporters, Gabel addressed both.

“The cost of higher education is a national conversation and one I am sure we will be having here, and that I know is already happening here,” Gabel said. “In terms of student safety, nothing at the end of the day is more important than making sure our students are safe. It’s how they are able to be the best learners.”

This past July, Eric Kaler announced that he would step down as University of Minnesota president in July 2019.

Christiane Cordero