George Mason University has named Angel Cabrera, head of Thunderbird School of Global Management, as its new president, university officials announced Thursday morning.

Cabrera, 44, will be the university’s sixth president, succeeding Alan G. Merten, who announced his retirement in March.

Merten, 69, served as the university president for 16 years and is credited with turning George Mason into Virginia’s largest public university.

He will retire at the end of the current school year, in June 2012.

“After eight wonderful years at Thunderbird, I am honored to have been asked to lead one of the most innovative institutions in American higher education,” Cabrera said in a statement.

“I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of a great educator and leader, President Alan Merten, and I look forward to working with such a talented community of faculty and administrators,” he said.

Cabrera, a native of Spain and a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, was previously a professor and dean at Madrid’s IE Business School.

He has served as the president of the Thunderbird School, a leading in international business school, since 2004 .

Cabrera was selected unanimously by the George Mason University Board of Visitors.