Pitt Makes History in Selecting a Woman as Its Next Chancellor

Joan T.A. Gabel was named the university’s 19th chancellor on Monday.
Gabel Portrait April 2023


The University of Pittsburgh will be led by its first woman chancellor since its founding in 1787.

The University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees elected Joan T.A. Gabel, president and chief executive of the University of Minnesota System and Twin Cities campus, on Monday to succeed Patrick Gallagher as the institution’s 19th chancellor. She will begin her new role on July 1.

“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 Pitt news 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.”

After Monday’s announcement, Gabel addressed the board and those in attendance. She said upon meeting with many university stakeholders, they have taught her what the Pitt institution means to them and their families. 

Joan Gabel Bot Martha Munsch


She also mentioned Pitt’s first Black graduate William Hunter Dammond, and Margaret and Stella Stein, Pitt’s first full-time women students.

“And the countless risk takers and leaders to embrace what it means to be a Panther,” she said, adding the university will be poised to take leaps when needed to “ensure that the very best days lie ahead to widen the circle of opportunity.”

The election concludes an extensive search launched after Gallagher announced last year that he would step down this summer to transition to the faculty as a professor in the Dietrich Schools of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics and Astronomy. Gallagher has led the university since 2014.

Doug Browning, chair of the Pitt Board of Trustees, noted Gabel will be leading a university that’s recognized as one of the top 10 research institutions in the United States.

“I believe Pitt stands on the threshold of even greater accomplishments and achievements in the future under her guidance. She clearly reflects the vision, drive, experience and understanding of the issues and complexities of leading a major research university,” Browning said. 

Trustee Eva Tansky Blum, who chaired the 26-person chancellor search committee composed of Pitt trustees, students, faculty, staff and alumni, said, “We are so fortunate to have Joan T.A. Gabel as Pitt’s 19th chancellor. She brings deep experience and demonstrated success in higher education to our University.”

Anantha Shekhar, vice chair of the search committee, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences, and the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the School of Medicine, said: “Joan T.A. Gabel is a natural leader. It was clear to me that she is forward-thinking, innovative and driven — the right leader for our university at this time and place.”

Gallagher described the selection of his successor as “the right leader to shape the University of Pittsburgh’s legacy and future.”

“She has successfully led one of America’s top research universities and dedicated her career to supporting a university’s fundamental mission of creating and leveraging knowledge for society’s gain,” he added.

When he steps down this summer, Gallagher will have served as chancellor for nine years — a period of dramatic growth and productivity for the university, despite a tumultuous higher education landscape.

For example, Pitt received the largest number of first-year undergraduate applications in its history this year. The average weighted GPA of its incoming first-year students also reached an all-time high (4.16) with the current first-year class.

In 2018, Pitt joined an elite cohort of U.S. institutions with more than $1 billion in annual research and development expenditures — a position it has maintained for four straight years, which places it among the top 10 public research institutions in the nation.

The chancellor oversees a community of nearly 34,000 students at five distinct campuses. This leader also supports the work of more than 14,000 faculty and staff members committed to advancing the university’s legacy of academic excellence, community service and research innovation.

Joan Gabel Patrick Gallagher Pitt Pathfinders


Gabel holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Haverford College and a Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia School of Law.

Gabel began teaching at Georgia State University in 1996, and later joined Florida State University where she served as chair of the Department of Risk Management/Insurance, Real Estate and Legal Studies and director in International Relations. She was also the DeSantis Professor of Legal Studies at FSU.

She served as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina from 2015 to 2019, and dean of the University of Missouri’s Robert J. Trulaske Sr. College of Business from 2010 to 2015.

Under Gabel’s leadership at the University of Minnesota, a comprehensive system-wide strategic plan resulted in record-setting graduation rates and annual research expenditures, as well as an increase in start-ups and patents.

She also oversaw the completion of a 10-year, $4 billion capital campaign that exceeded its goal by 10%. 

University of Minnesota, which spans five campuses, is one of the nation’s largest universities, serving 68,000 students – twice as large as Pitt’s student body

Her bio continues, “She expanded the university’s global footprint, championed experiential learning, entrepreneurialism, service learning and campus diversity and inclusion efforts, which included the recruitment and support of underrepresented students, faculty and staff, as well as the creation of inclusive programs and forums to measurably improve the campus climate.”

She has received multiple research, service and teaching awards, including a Fulbright scholarship. She currently serves as vice chair for the Council on Competitiveness and on the boards of the American Council on Education, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the Fulbright Scholar Advisory Board.

Gabel plans to relocate to Pittsburgh in the coming months and will be joined by her husband, Gary.

“Let me say with gratitude for the first time, ‘Hail to Pitt!’” she concluded Monday.

Categories: The 412