P. Barry Butler named UI provost finalist, to speak on campus today


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University of Iowa interim Provost P. Barry Butler may not have to pack up his desk in Jessup Hall at the end of the university's search for a permanent second-in-command.

UI officials announced Monday that Butler, former dean of the College of Engineering, will be the first of three provost candidates to publicly address the university community in hopes of landing the job.

The remaining two candidates will be announced 24 hours before their respective visits on Friday and May 4.

Butler is set to speak today in 348 IMU at 3:30 p.m.

"I'm not going to say anything about any of the candidates until the process is over, and I have a chance to evaluate all three of them," UI President Sally Mason told The Daily Iowan on Monday.

"Obviously, I've had the chance to get to know interim Provost Butler. And I've worked with him the last four years, and I have a lot of respect for him."

Butler became the university's interim provost at the beginning of October 2010, replacing former Provost Wallace Loh, who left to become the president of the University of Maryland.

Butler received a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign and, soon after, found his place at the UI, where he has remained since as a professor, then dean of the College of Engineering.

Since 1984, Butler has risen through the ranks, serving as the head of the Mechanical Engineering Department as well as the school's dean.

"He's brought a lot of energy and life to the [provost] position," said Mark Arnold, the head of the Chemistry Department, "and has demonstrated a lot of interest in what goes on at the undergraduate and graduate level."

Arnold said one of Butler's main accomplishments has been the continuation of the cluster hirings, a process that has brought the campus together.

"I think he would respond well to that leadership role," said Gary Christensen, a electrical-computer engineering professor. "He's got a lot of experience with the university. He works with other deans and has a good relationship with institutions around the country."

David Johnsen, the dean of the College of Dentistry, said Butler's transition from dean to provost has been a relatively smooth one.

"I found him to be a very good colleague and a very good colleague as interim provost," he said.

Johnsen said a good provost needs to be able to think strategically and financially, in addition to being a team builder.

David Murhammer, a department head and professor of chemical and biochemical engineering, said Butler was a good dean and wasn't afraid to make difficult decisions.

"I'm glad to hear he's one of the candidates," Murhammer said. "I think he's really concerned about this university. He's the ideal person you'd want in that position."

While serving as dean, Butler also taught first-year seminars for freshmen during the last two fall semesters.

Last fall, UI sophomore Maggie Helgerson was in Butler's seminar on wind energy.

"He was always attentive to what we were thinking," she said.

The 20-year-old said she felt Butler always listened to students, even though he was an administrator.

"He's professional, but he's not aloof," she said. "You can connect and relate to him easily."

In an e-mail, Butler deferred comment about his candidacy until after the interview.

Mason first appointed the now 23-member provost-search committee in November. The committee conducted a confidential search, and members declined to comment.

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