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UI President Bruce Harreld says he’ll step down in May, Board of Regents will appoint interim president (updated)


University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld speaks during the dedication of the Elizabeth Catlett Residence Hall. Friday, July 28, 2017. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Editor’s note: This story was updated with information from Board of Regents President Michael Richards’ statement, which was issued after the story was first published.

Five months after announcing he was retiring as soon after the Board of Regents appointed his replacement, University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld said on Thursday his last day as president will be May 16.

In a statement published on UI’s news site, Harreld said the regents expect to select UI’s next president on April 30.

“Board President Michael Richards has requested that I remain president through May 16, which will allow the new president the opportunity to begin at a date of their choosing,” Harreld said.

Richards issued his own statement hours after Harrelds’ that seemed somewhat at odds with what the outgoing president said. Harreld made it sound as if he would be handing off his office directly to his successor, but Richards said Dean of the Graduate College John Keller will serve as interim president from Harrelds’ last day “until the next permanent UI president begins their duties.”

“I am very grateful that Dean Keller is willing to take on the role of interim president until the new president starts,” Richards said.

Keller, who is also the associate provost for graduate and professional education, co-chairs the search committee screening the candidates for the next UI president. “He is not a candidate for the permanent position of president,” Richard said in his statement.

Earlier this month, Keller announced he would be retiring at the end of July. He has been at UI since 1998, when he was hired as an associate professor in the College of Dentistry.

The search for a new UI president began soon after Harreld informed the public on Oct. 1 that he would be retiring before the end of his current contract in June 2023. That decision surprised many, because Harreld and the board agreed to a contract extension in June 2019, almost a full year and a half before his original five-year contract was set to expire. Harreld had told the Daily Iowan he wanted a contract extension, before he struck his deal with the regents.

Among those who weren’t expecting Harreld’s retirement decision last year was President Richards. He told the Daily Iowan Harreld’s decision came as “a bit of a surprise.”

The search process for a new UI president began in October, and is now moving into its final stages. Online interviews with the semifinalist candidates are scheduled for April 1-3. Four finalists will then be selected. Community feedback on candidates will be open through April 27, and the search committee will report to the board on April 29. After interviewing the final candidates, the board intends to name the new president the next day.

In his statement last October, Harreld explained his decision to retire by saying, “I firmly believe there is a cadence to life and especially to an institution like ours.”

In an interview about his retirement with the Daily Iowan, Harreld was a little more specific: “I have commitments to family and other folks that I need to live up to while I still can. I’ll turn 70 later this year, so I’m at the twilight end.”

The selection process that resulted in Harreld’s appointment in 2015 was controversial, and the exclusion of standard faculty input on the selection led to UI being sanctioned by the American Association of University Presidents (AAUP).

The UI Faculty Senate later developed a new guide on the selection process that led to UI being removed from the AAUP sanctions list in 2018.


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