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Mason begins long goodbye

BY GIRINDRA SELLECK | JUNE 25, 2015 5:00 AM

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University of Iowa President Sally Mason is packing her bags.

On Wednesday, Mason began the process of wrapping up her time on campus with a farewell ceremony at the Levitt Center, which attracted around 100 guests.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in eight years,” said Mason, who became president in 2007.

The UI has gone through a lot in the eight years of Mason’s tenure, including the catastrophic 2008 flood, which destroyed a sixth of the campus.

However, although still in the process of recovery, the university has emerged with new facilities, as well as higher attendance and graduation rates.

“You don’t realize how much you’re doing on a day-to-day basis, but when you finally have a moment, you sit back, and it really all begins to set in,” Mason said.

Some of the landmarks of her time at the university include construction of a new UI Children’s Hospital and the Pappajohn Biomedical Institute, as well navigating through a national economic crisis and more floods.

Mason said one of her proudest achievements was spearheading the university’s sustainability initiative.

“Sally has been our strongest advocate and most articulate cheerleader,” UI Foundation President Lynette Marshall said.

The community farewell for Sally and husband Ken is one of a number of events being conducted in the weeks leading up to when Mason formally retires, July 31.

“We hope that this series of ceremonies gives a flavor of her whole experience here,” said Michael Stokes, the director of events for the Office of the President.

Laura McLeran, the UI assistant vice president for external relations in the President’s Office, said Wednesday’s event provided a platform for Mason to have a dialogue with people who aren’t necessarily affiliated with the university.

“She likes to talk to people, so this was a great opportunity for her to have an open conversation with the community,” McLeran said.

In the wake of Mason’s departure, the UI must conduct a search for a new leader.

“We hope to have candidates on campus early in the fall,” McLeran said.

Jean Robillard, the UI vice president for Medical Affairs, will become the interim president.

“You want somebody who has a vision for higher education,” Robillard said.

His interim presidency is set to begin Aug. 1, and it will continue until a president is found. He said he hopes to have someone selected and on campus by January at the latest, though the search committee will aim for earlier.

The next committee meeting is scheduled for July 2, and another is set to occur in August.

“We’re looking for someone who can excite faculty and students and continue to improve the university and build on the work that President Mason has done here,” Robillard said.

While Mason said it is sometimes hard for her to appreciate something while she’s working on it, it appears the time is approaching when she can take a step back, take a break, and observe her accomplishments.

“My husband is taking me on a cruise to Alaska in a week,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to that.”


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