The Board of Regents discussed and approved the retirement of University of Iowa president Sally Mason today at a special meeting in Iowa City. Mason announced last week she will retire on July 31st.
Board president Bruce Rastetter says Mason accomplished a lot after facing some difficult times at the start of her presidency. “We think back to the 2008 flood that devastated the campus shortly after your arrival, and the ability to work through those, replace students and their classroom availably –which wasn’t an easy task — and to go through that process while still, not just maintaining, but improving four-year graduation rates,” Rastetter says.
He credited Mason with pushing to see that the campus was rebuilt. “The challenges with FEMA that have been well noted in the press, and the challenge to make sure that those dollars were there for the rebuild that is going on today, was a critical part of President Mason’s tenure that was extremely important to do and her involvement with that,” according to Rastetter.
Rastetter says another key accomplishment for Mason came in fundraising. “The one-point-seven billion dollar fundraising campaign that’s never been done in the state should be well-noted,” Rastetter says. “But it’s already over one-point-four billion, and one the opportunities for Sally is to complete that.”
The Board of Regents met in a closed session to discuss the details of Mason’s retirement. They agreed to make her a tenured faculty member when she retires and president emeritus.
“My request to become emeritus president is so that I can maintain my connection to the University of Iowa in perpetuity,” Mason says. “This has been a very, very important part of my life. The team that I have surrounding me, that I have had the privilege to work with, has been extremely, extremely talented.”
The tenured faculty position allows Mason to stay at the university and be paid 60-percent of her current salary. It would include a transition year where she would not teach.
“The idea of a transition year, going back to the faculty, I’m going to keep that option open,” Mason says. She says she will stay active in the fundraising in the last six months of her tenure, and depending on how the search for her successor goes, she says she will stay involved until she can turn the fundraising duties over to the new person. Mason has been working on a year-to-year contract that pays her nearly $526,000. There is also a deferred compensation plan that Mason says is “still in play” for payment when she retires.
Several of the regents spoke about Mason during the meeting. Regent Robert Downer of Iowa City credited Mason with quickly learning the importance of the medical college and its operation. “From my vantage point, she has done an exemplary job in that endeavor in every respect I can think of,” Downer says. “The quality of what we are seeing the health sciences colleges and in the University Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is unsurpassed in the history of those outstanding programs.”
Hannah Walsh is the student representative on the board. “I had the opportunity to see you in three different roles, as a colleague, as a teacher and most notably as a role model. Each perspective has really provided me with deep respect for you and your dedication to improving higher education and the University of Iowa,” Walsh says. “But above all, I have to thank you for everything. I truly wouldn’t be sitting here today without your guidance and your help.”
Regent Larry McKibben of Marshalltown, thanked Mason for her work on the project to improve the efficiency of the three state schools. “I appreciate so much your enthusiasm at the University of Iowa in this project. And your help and your advice and your counsel as this project move forward. I was impressed with your presentations at our town hall meetings,” McKibben says.
McKibben credited Mason with having the vision of the board in moving the efficiency project forward. “And that is a vision of transformational development, putting us in a position for the next years, decades to come to be an efficient, high-quality education that is affordable to our families and our first-generation families in the state of Iowa. So, I very much appreciate that,” McKibben says.
The board also directed the executive director of the regents to begin the process of selection a search firm to find Mason’s replacement.