Joan Gabel to serve as Pitt’s next chancellor starting in July


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Joan Gabel at a press conference in the Cathedral of Learning after being named the University’s next chancellor.

By Ryleigh Lord, Assistant News Editor

This article was updated Monday at 3:40 p.m.

Joan Gabel will serve as Pitt’s next chancellor starting in July, following a vote Monday from the University’s Board of Trustees.

“I am excited and filled with optimism when I think of leading this institution into its important next chapter — to taking leaps when needed, and incremental steps as necessary, to ensure that every step we take, however large or small, moves us forward,” Gabel said in a press release. “I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead this world-class community of learners, leaders and discoverers from Pittsburgh and Bradford to Greensburg, Johnstown, Titusville and beyond.”

Gabel has served as the president and chief executive of the University of Minnesota System and Twin Cities campus since 2019. At the UMN, she oversaw the completion of a 10-year, $4 billion capital campaign as well as the NXT GEN MED, a collaborative program between Mayo Clinic, Google and the university.

The chancellor — the University’s chief administrator — oversees 34,000 students and 14,000 faculty and staff members across five campuses. Gabel is the 19th chancellor in Pitt’s history, replacing Patrick Gallagher, who has served in the position since 2014. She is also the first woman to have the job. 

The Board of Trustees’ Compensation Committee voted Monday afternoon to give Gabel a $950,000 annual base salary. Gallagher’s salary is $698,202.

Gabel’s controversial decision to take a paid corporate board seat at Securian Financial, which has more than $1 billion worth of business with UMN, led the university to review its conflict policies, following outcry from the governor and state attorney general. She resigned from the position in January for “the best interest of the university.”

During her time as president, Gabel also limited the university’s relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department following George Floyd’s murder. She said the school wouldn’t use the police force for large events such as football games and concerts. 

Gabel previously served as the executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina from 2015-19, and she was the dean of University of Missouri’s business school from 2010-15. She got a bachelor’s degree from Haverford College and Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia. 

Gallagher said Gabel is the “right leader to shape the University of Pittsburgh’s legacy and future.” 

“I am grateful to our Board of Trustees for selecting Joan as Pitt’s next chancellor and thankful to be leaving our remarkable University and University community in Joan’s talented hands,” Gallagher said. “I am confident that, under her guidance, Pitt’s brightest days lie ahead.”

Gallagher announced in April 2022 that he will leave his position this summer, and he plans to stay at Pitt as a physics professor. In September, Board of Trustees Chair Doug Browning appointed a search committee with 26 members, including Student Government Board president Danielle Floyd and Varbi Mridha, vice president of finance for the Graduate and Professional Student Government. 

They also selected executive search firm Storbeck Search to assist in the process. This firm assisted in Pitt’s last search for a new chancellor in 2013. 

Since then, the search has mostly remained behind closed doors. The search committee gathered feedback through a survey and open forums from the University community in the fall, but the Pitt community did not receive any updates until Monday’s Board of Trustees meeting. 

Student leaders criticized this private process, comparing it to Provost Ann Cudd’s appointment process as Portland State University’s next president, which included three publicly announced finalists. The search committee for Pitt’s new dean of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and College of General Studies also brought four finalists for the position to campus to interact with the University community. 

During his nine years as chancellor, Gallagher worked on a variety of initiatives, including the Pitt Success Pell Match program with Cudd, in which the University matches federal Pell grants awarded to undergraduate students. He also launched Victory Heights with Athletic Director Heather Lyke, an ambitious $240 million program to rehabilitate and construct new sports facilities.

Numerous complex situations have occurred during Gallagher’s tenure. Gallagher led the University through the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in temporary budget reductions, shifting class formats and debates over mask policies

Gallagher also was at the helm over the summer when Pitt was at risk of losing its appropriation bill from the state, which it uses to fund in-state tuition discounts. House Republicans attempted to block Pitt’s funding unless it stopped conducting fetal tissue research. Gallagher said in an interview with The Pitt News in February that the next chancellor must have the ability to navigate an increasingly partisan environment in higher education. 

Graduate students narrowly voted against unionizing, while faculty members overwhelmingly backed unionization last year. Gallagher said last year that he will probably join the union as a professor, which is currently in contentious compensation negotiations with administration. 

Prior to succeeding Mark Nordenberg as chancellor in 2014, Gallagher spent many years in public service, including as director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and philosophy from Benedictine College in Kansas and a doctorate in physics from Pitt.