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Van Galen officially named UWRF chancellor

February 5, 2009

A new UW-River Falls chancellor was officially named at the Jan. 16 UW System Board of Regents meeting, after being recommended on Dec. 19 by a Regents special committee.

Dean Van Galen, vice president for university advancement at the University of West Florida (Pensacola, Fla.), was named by UW System President Kevin Reilly and the committee, after being one of five finalists selected by a search and screen committee consisting of 19 UWRF faculty members and students.

Van Galen will take office June 1, and replace Interim Chancellor Connie Foster, who took over when Don Betz resigned June 30, 2008.

“I’m very excited about [the recommendation]. I had a wonderful visit to River Falls earlier in the semester and I think it is a wonderful University moving in a great direction,” Van Galen said. “The focus of the University of global literacy, sustainability and inclusion, I think are very important, and I’m interested in working with the University to move those efforts forward.”

Van Galen is a Waupun, Wis., native and graduate of UW-Whitewater, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. He received his doctorate in analytical chemistry from Kansas State University.

“[My wife and I] are excited about coming home,” Van Galen said.

The faculty, search committee and the regents think Van Galen is the best choice because he’s a good fit for the campus, similar to Don Betz and the late Ann Lydecker, UWRF Director of Media Relations Kevin Harter said.

“He brings a wealth of educational expertise, but also a wealth of knowledge and know-how on fundraising, which is vital now to most universities,” Harter said.

Van Galen’s fundraising experience could be beneficial in the current tough economy.

UWRF faces some serious budget challenges, Van Galen said.

“I think the strategic plan that is in place, Living the Promise, should help guide budget decisions,” he said. “I do think that over time I will want to have the University pursue increased private support, especially for areas such as need-based scholarships, to help to keep attendance affordable.”

Van Galen started his career as a chemistry professor in 1987 at Truman State University (Kirksville, Mo.). He then served as vice president for advancement at Truman State before moving onto the University of West Florida in 2003.

The Board of Regents also named Thomas Harden the new chancellor of UW-Green Bay at the meeting.

“We have high expectations for these new leaders,” UW System President Kevin P. Reilly said in a press release. “This is a critical time for our nation, our state and our universities. All UW campuses, including those in Green Bay and River Falls, will play a vital role in helping local communities face the challenges ahead. Chancellor Harden and Chancellor Van Galen bring experience, vision and demonstrated competence to the important role of advancing these fine UW institutions and serving their many constituents.”

Van Galen is a good educator but is also involved in the community and the region, Harter said.

“He’s a very community minded chancellor,” Harter said. “That’s what this campus values.”

Van Galen said he would like to continue to support and enhance the University’s strategic plan.

“[I plan] to help the University address the budget cuts that the UW System will likely face,” he said. “Also, to look at the future in terms of enrollment and to start a comprehensive fundraising campaign to enhance the University’s academic mission and provide greater opportunity for students.”