RIVER FALLS — University of Wisconsin-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen is stepping down after 11 years to take a new job as president of Missouri Southern State University.

Van Galen was announced as the public university’s new president Monday following an eight-month selection process. He toured the campus and spoke at a town hall-style meeting May 8.

His start date will be July 1.

Van Galen thanked UWRF employees in a letter Monday.

“I have done my very best to lead our university, and I have a deep sense of respect and gratitude for what we have accomplished, together, often during times of challenge,” he wrote. “Most of all, our shared commitment has positively impacted the lives of so many students. I believe that this is the most important legacy that we will share.”

Van Galen was credited in a news release for contributing to the success of the university’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign, Rising to Distinction, that raised $22 million for student scholarships and the Falcon Center health and human performance facility.

The University of Wisconsin System is expected to name an interim chancellor until a replacement is made. UW leaders on Monday praised Van Galen's tenure at UWRF.

"The UW System is losing a great, forward-looking leader," Regent President Andrew S. Petersen said. "Dean Van Galen has been a terrific contributor to the strength and vitality which is UW-River Falls.”

UW System President Ray Cross added Van Galen will be missed. "He has enhanced the undergraduate experience by emphasizing research and internships, fostered growth in the number of adults completing degrees, expanded international education opportunities, and created innovative partnerships with the business community."

UWRF offers more than 70 areas of study in four colleges. The student population is 6,139 according to the school's website.

Van Galen was one of four finalists from an applicant pool of nearly 70. MSSU Board of Governors said they selected him unanimously.

“The board believes Dr. Van Galen demonstrates exactly the experience, education and background we were seeking to lead Southern,” said Bill Gipson, board chairman, in a news release.

This story was updated 1:55 p.m. May 18, 2020, with additional comments from UW-System leadership.