Abdul Omari, the University of Minnesota regent who led the U's recent high-profile presidential search, was snubbed by an advisory council that recommends regents to the Minnesota Legislature.
The Regent Candidate Advisory Council, a 24-member body appointed by the Legislature, backed 16 applicants Friday to fill four regents seats up for grabs. Two other incumbents, Peggy Lucas and Dean Johnson, did make the cut.
Omari, the founder of a leadership consulting company who has three degrees from the U, chaired a search committee that recruited and vetted candidates to lead the university. In December, the regents hired University of South Carolina Provost Joan Gabel — the front-runner backed by that committee — to serve as the U's 17th president and the first woman to lead the five-campus system.
Dan Wolter, the council chairman, said he was surprised Omari, who serves as a student regent, did not make it onto the list of recommended candidates. "Everybody was extremely impressed by [Omari] and the work he has done for the Board of Regents," Wolter said. "We just had a lot of really strong candidates."
One consideration that might have played a part is a gender imbalance on the U's governing board: Two of the 12 regents are women, one of whom, Linda Cohen, is not seeking another six-year term. Omari noted some council members questioned if he has sufficient experience outside the university, even as he touted his five years at the helm of his business and service on nonprofit boards.
He said he plans to appeal to lawmakers directly in coming weeks.
"If I didn't think I was the right person to be a regent, I would not have signed up in the first place," he said.
Legislators don't have to honor the council's recommendations and have been known to bypass them at times. Next, the Regent Nomination Joint Legislative Committee will pick a finalist for each open regent seat and forward those names to the full Legislature, which will vote in a joint convention later in the session.
Council members spoke with 25 would-be regents this week out of 47 total applicants.
The candidates the council recommended were:
For the Fifth Congressional District seat: Allison Barmann of Edina, Kelly Doran, Peggy Lucas and Janie Mayeron, all of Minneapolis.
For two at-large seats: Lynn Abrahamsen of St. Paul, Susan Adams Loyd of Edina, Mary Davenport of Mankato, Robert Eddy of Big Lake, Kao Ly Ilean Her of Maplewood, Dean Johnson of Willmar, Bill Luther of Minnetonka and Sandy Wiese of Eagan.
For the student seat: James Farnsworth, Mike Kenyanya, Sara Kettering and Joshua Preston.
Five of the recommended candidates are people of color. Wolter said the council this time sought to give the joint committee more options.
Regents receive no compensation.
Mila Koumpilova • 612-673-4781