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June 7, 2002
Volume 39 No. 15


Hail and farewell: After seven years, President Coleman to leave Iowa
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Hail and farewell: After seven years, President Coleman to leave Iowa

Mary Sue Coleman
Photo by Tim Schoon.

Wednesday, May 29, was an ordinary workday until just after 8:30 a.m. That's when an all-campus e-mail from Mary Sue Coleman arrived, confirming a news report that she'd be leaving The University of Iowa to assume the presidency of the University of Michigan.

From that time on, the surprise announcement was Topic No. 1 in every meeting, casual encounter on the street, or telephone call. People speculated on her reasons for leaving, usually centering on the state budget crisis—but she said that wasn't the reason. By mid-afternoon, the Iowa City Press-Citizen published an "extra" one-page summary of the news. The next day, news accounts had named possible successors.

But almost immediately, the campus focus became two-pronged: First, people thought about the impact that Mary Sue Coleman has had on their areas of the University. Next, they said, OK, what's the process for choosing the next president? How long will that take?

Gregory S. Nichols, executive director of the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, says the first step in the process is choosing an interim president. It is hoped the board will approve the interim appointment and also the outline of a search process for the next president at its June 19-20 meeting in Ames, he says.

"I anticipate the board will seek participation from various parts of the University community in the search committee," he says. "The board likely will approve the use of an outside search firm to assist the process as well."

The search committee probably will be asked to produce a "select number" of candidates for the board to review, he says. Based on past practice, when that list of finalists is complete, the names would become public, and the University community will know who the final candidates are so there can be public comment prior to the final selection by the board."

From all areas of campus came evaluations of the Coleman tenure, among them:

Philip E. Jones, who was named by Coleman to the recreated position of vice president for student services:
"Her vision of student services is to provide learning opportunities throughout the University environment. She is an active participant in communication with students and in addressing student issues. For example, she held a monthly meeting with campus student leaders, she held a monthly conversation called a fireside chat with students who were randomly invited to come talk about anything they wanted, she actively participated in the University/community coalition against binge drinking, and she championed the Four-Year Graduation Plan for undergraduates. She is a cosmopolitan president with a local commitment to student growth and development.

President Coleman at fireside chat

Whether formally, in her fireside chats (above), or informally at an honors student reception (below), Mary Sue Coleman particulaly enjoys talking with students.

Photo by Rex Bavousett.

"President Coleman placed student concerns in the center of University administrative consideration. Reestablishing the vice presidency reintroduced into central administration a voice for vision and advocacy for the out-of-classroom learning and living experiences of students."
President Coleman at honors student reception
Photo by Rex Bavousett.

Jeffrey Cox, president of the Faculty Senate:
"When President Coleman arrived at The University of Iowa, she found an institution with one of the strongest traditions of faculty self-government in the Big Ten. During her presidency, our institutional commitments to academic freedom, tenure, due process, and shared governance have become even stronger."

J. David Martin, Tippie College of Business librarian and president of Staff Council:
"President Coleman has been extremely supportive of staff, in my experience. It was during her tenure that the Staff Council executive committee began meeting with her on a monthly basis. I think she has gone out of her way to make sure staff are consulted about issues on campus. That attitude and commitment shows up all through the University organization.
"On a personal note; her support for the University Libraries budget over the years was tremendous."

Robert Bowlsby, director of athletics administration:
"President Coleman has been an insightful and tireless leader for The University of Iowa. Relative to intercollegiate athletics, President Coleman has been explicit in enunciating her expectations in the areas of integrity and student-athlete welfare and she has been supportive of departmental initiatives to progress toward our competitive and academic aspirations. The University of Michigan is a tremendous institution that will be made even better by President Coleman's involvement."

Vicki Brown, chair of the Merit Supervisory Exempt/Confidential committee of Staff Council:
"Under President Coleman, the Merit Supervisory Exempt/Confidential classification has become a more defined group of employees by committing and maintaining "MSE/C" as a name. We have promoted MSE/C employees more through an informative/educational process by having brown- bag sessions for our constituents. President Coleman was very approachable and was proactive as far as communicating information to all staff. She will be sorely missed."

Owen J. Newlin, president of the Board of Regents, State of Iowa:
"President Mary Sue Coleman will be missed here in Iowa. At the same time, it is an indication of the quality of her leadership at The University of Iowa that she was selected for this prestigious new position. On behalf of the Board of Regents, I want to congratulate her on this new opportunity and thank her for her years of service to Iowans."

President Coleman told fyi:
"I have full confidence that the Regents will select a wonderful person to lead this institution in the future. I will be watching with pride as Iowa flourishes."

by Anne Tanner

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