University of Iowa president Sally Mason says the recent retirement of a vice president and friend at the school got her thinking about her own retirement. The thoughts led Mason to announce today she will retire in August, which will mark her 8th year at the school.
“I had time over the holidays to really think hard about where we are as a university and where I am in my presidency and came back thinking this is a great time. I turn 65 this year, I celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary. My husband has planned to take me to the only state in the union that neither of us has visited — that’s Alaska — this just seemed like the perfect time,” Mason says.
Mason says she mentioned the possibility of retiring during a monthly meeting with Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter and president pro-tem Katie Mulholland. “We talked about it in generalities in December and I said at the point to Bruce and Katie, ‘you know I want to think about this over the holidays and I am going to come back to you with a suggestion after the holidays.’ And I saw him on Monday and I came back with a suggestion,” Mason says. “I have to say Bruce has been a extremely, extremely accommodating and willing to work with me, and I very much appreciate that.”
Mason took over as president in August of 2007, just about one year before the devastating floods hit Iowa City. She will be leaving before the rebuilding process is fully completed, but says she is okay with that. “This is a train that left the station awhile back, it’s going to happen whether I am here or not, and I can come back and celebrate it with everyone else when we do the grand openings, and I’d be delighted to do that obviously, so I feel great, ” Mason says. “For several years all of us were worried we were going to be able to recover from this flood in a way that made sense for the campus.”
Mason says she decided things are in a place where she can move on with her life. “There are things that I still want to do, including travel and be able to be with my family, including seeing a grand nephew that I haven’t even met yet,” Mason says.
She talks about what she sees as her biggest accomplishment in her time as president. “As I look back on achievements, the things that we’ve done and put in place to make the educational experience for our students one of the best around, I think will likely be among the major things that I am going to continue to talk about for a long, long time,” according to Mason. She says making education more affordable and accessible and allowing students to graduate within four years are some of the accomplishments in her time that have improve the educational experience.
There are a few things that she wants to get done before retiring. “We’re still in the midst of a fundraising campaign and people are of course are asking me ‘why are you leaving before that is over?’ That’s another one of the those trains that is well on its way to getting to the station,” Mason explains. “We’ve made great progress there, I’ve got six more months and I am going to spend a lot of time on that.” She says other things that she’ll work on before stepping down include preparing the university for more growth.
“We’ve got a lot of projects, some of which you are going to be hearing about over the next weeks and months before I leave. These projects are all going to be in play, in progress and close to completion before I check out,” Mason says.
Mason is the 20th president at the University of Iowa and before moving to Iowa City she served as provost of Purdue University. She was trained as a cell and developmental biologist and is married to a fellow biologist, Ken Mason, who is an educator and textbook author.