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University of Iowa News Release



June 21, 2007 (Updated June 22, 2007 11:24 AM )

Purdue Provost Sally Mason Named University Of Iowa's 20th President

The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, today named Purdue University Provost Sally Mason, 57, the University of Iowa's 20th president. The appointment takes effect Aug. 1. Mason's salary was set at $450,000.

Mason will succeed David Skorton, who left the UI in June 2006 to become president of Cornell University in New York. Gary Fethke, retired dean of the UI Henry B. Tippie College of Business, has been serving as interim UI president since Skorton's departure and will remain in that role until Mason moves into 101 Jessup Hall later this summer.

Today's announcement took place in the Richey Ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union, with members of the Board of Regents, members of the UI community and other well-wishers in attendance. Photos of the announcement, Mason's vita, is available at, which will be updated throughout the coming week.

UITV, which covered the announcement live, will rebroadcast the event on its Iowa City and Cedar Rapids cable channels at 7 and 9 p.m. tonight (Thursday) on UITV. The video will also be available for online viewing by 7 p.m. Central Time Thursday at mms://

Michael Gartner opened the Board of Regents meeting by welcoming a packed crowd, which included an estimated 150 UI faculty, staff, students, members of the community and media. After the regents gave Mason unanimous and enthusiastic approval, Mason and her husband, Ken, were escorted into the room to a standing ovation, thunderous applause and the Iowa Fight song. Escorting them were Barrett Anderson, UI Student Government president, and Crystal Edler, chair of the Executive Council on Graduate and Professional Students.

The Masons were decked out in black and gold, Sally Mason wearing a black suit accented by a gold shirt and Ken Mason dressed in a gold suit and black slacks. As she was escorted to the front of the room, she paused along the way to shake the hands of faculty, staff, students and other well-wishers.

Gartner thanked his fellow regents, the university community and the UI Presidential Search Committee, as well as Fethke for his dedication and commitment as interim president.

"For the past year, has been the acting president, but he's been anything but a caretaker," Gartner said. "He's established momentum that will help Sally Mason when she takes over in a month. He has been an absolutely terrific president ... I can't believe that anyone could have done a better job than Gary did."

Gartner said that when Mason spoke during her presentation last week, she was the only one of four finalists who, when she spoke of education, had a "spark in her eyes. She was the only one to use the word 'passion.'" Gartner called her an outstanding scholar and a leader and in particular praised her passion and her "thirst to excel."

"I don't think the UI could have come up with better candidates and a better president," he said.

Before Mason took the podium, Iowa Gov. Chet Culver made remarks and thanked everyone involved in the process of selecting the UI's 20th president. Culver said he was honored to be one of the first Iowans to congratulate Mason.

"I would like to welcome you and your family, and we are proud to have you here," Culver said. "It has been challenging and sometimes difficult, but in the end, we have a fantastic president that everyone can be proud of.... Iowa's world-class regent universities play a vital role in our state's future so it's critical we have the best people running these institutions.

"Today, I am proud to have such an outstanding person and proven leader to join them (the presidents of the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University), and I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and partnering with you to make this university as successful as possible."

Mason beamed as she stepped up to the podium.

"It is difficult for me to describe my excitement, my enthusiasm for the University of Iowa and for all of you," Mason said. "But I think I can perhaps sum up all my deepest feelings in two heartfelt words I intend to shout loud and often in the years ahead - go Hawks!"

Mason later quoted the late space pioneer James Van Allen, who said, "One of the most enthralling things about human life is the recognition that we live in ... a universe without bounds."

Said Mason, "The possibilities for our university are also without bounds. We can take our university as far as our passion, our energy, our imagination and our determination allow. The only limitations we face are those we place on ourselves."

Mason said her appointment is a very personal accomplishment. Her father was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia who came to the United States as a child and never had the opportunity to finish grade school. Her mother barely finished high school.

"I am the first person in my family to receive a university degree," she said. "And now I am the president of one of the world's great universities. Standing here before you today, I can't help but wonder what my parents would think if they could see me now. I think they would be very proud. Very amazed. But also very proud."

Mason said her first priority as president is to meet with students, faculty, staff and administrators to learn more about the university she'll be leading, a task she said she's already begun. She also plans to meet with alumni, friends of the university, Iowans and community leaders.

"I will travel throughout our state to learn what the University of Iowa can do for our rural towns and major cities," she said. "It will be an exciting time for me to hear your ideas and your dreams, to learn your vision for this university and its place in our state and in the world. It will be a time for me to share my passion for the job that is ahead."

Mark Salisbury, UI doctoral student in the student affairs administration and research program, said he was happy with Mason's selection.

"I think Dr. Mason will be a wonderful UI president because she cares about everybody from the undergraduate student to the tenured professor," he said.

Jack Evans, a member of the Board of Regents, called today's announcement a "big day" for the university and for the state of Iowa.

"Dr. Mason is a distinguished scholar who has a long career in higher education leadership, and I, for one, am excited to see what she'll do to make this fine institution even better," Evans said.

Iowa Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said he's been very impressed by Mason.

"She hit all the high notes in terms of Iowa as a university of hope," Dvorsky said. "I think she's an excellent choice, and I'm looking forward to returning Iowa to being one of the nation's top 10 public research universities."

Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn also said he's looking forward to getting to know the new president better and hopes to set up regular meetings with her.

"In the past, it's been a good way to touch base on where the city and the university interface and talk about how we can work together," Wilburn said.

In a statement to the Purdue University community, Purdue President Martin C. Jischke called Mason "among the top people in higher education today."

"As provost, her impact on Purdue University has been profound in many ways, including increasing diversity, recruiting top faculty, doubling the research program, advancing engagement and improving the learning environment for our students," Jischke, a former president of Iowa State University. "She is a major force behind our Discovery Learning Center in Discovery Park. Sally and her husband, Ken, are major donors to the Learning Center. Her work at Purdue has helped to transform this university, so it comes as no surprise that she is being selected for this wonderful leadership opportunity at the University of Iowa. I believe her impact on the state of Iowa will be every bit as great as it has been on our state of Indiana."

As UI president, Mason will lead the largest of three Iowa Regents' universities and home to the world-renowned Iowa Writers' Workshop, one of America's best hospitals and the Iowa Hawkeyes athletic teams. Founded in 1847 as the state's first public institution of higher learning and located on a 1,900-acre campus, the UI today is a comprehensive public university committed to high-quality teaching, research, and service.

The UI currently enrolls close to 30,000 students and several UI programs rank among the nation's best. Its faculty includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, four former clerks to U.S. Supreme Court justices, two National Medal of Science winners, and four Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators.

During her tenure at Purdue, Mason invested both professionally and personally in diversity and innovative research and education.

She raised funds for and implemented a number of major diversity initiatives at Purdue, including creation of a Native American education and cultural center and a Latino Cultural Center, joining a black cultural center already on campus. She started two programs funded by the National Science Foundation that work to increase retention and graduation rates among students in science fields, especially minorities. And she recently implemented a new initiative that focuses on recruitment, including more minority faculty appointments, professional development programs, and incentives for teaching and research on diversity.

In 2004, Mason and her husband gave a $2 million gift to create the Sally K. and Kenneth A. Mason Fund in support of Purdue's Discovery Learning Center (DLC). The DLC, one of 10 interdisciplinary research centers in Purdue's new Discovery Park, was created to advance research that revolutionizes learning in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math). Through externally funded research projects, innovative programs, and collaborative partnerships, the DLC is seeks to redesign educational practices and create innovative learning environments that, according to the DLC's Web site, "have immediate impact and nurture lifelong learning for students and citizens of a global community."

In April 2005, Mason announced that the Indiana Commission for Higher Education approved Purdue's plan to become the first university to offer graduate degrees in engineering education. The move came on the heels of Purdue's creation of a Department of Engineering Education in 2004.

And in February 2006, President George W. Bush appointed Mason to be one of 14 members of the President's Committee on the National Medal of Sciences. The committee reviews nominations made by members of the National Academy of Science, academia and the general public and makes recommendations to the president annually.

A native of New York City, Mason received her bachelor's degree in zoology from the University of Kentucky in 1972, a master's degree from Purdue University in 1974, and a Ph.D. in cellular, molecular, and developmental biology from the University of Arizona in 1978. After two years at Indiana University in Bloomington doing postdoctoral research, she joined the University of Kansas in 1981. During the span of her 21 years at KU, she served as a full professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences, acting chair of the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and finally, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

In 2001, Mason returned to Purdue, where she is currently a professor of biology and provost of the University. Her responsibilities there include oversight for all of the academic programs on the West Lafayette campus and those on the four Purdue-affiliated regional campuses. She has received a number of teaching awards, including a Mortar Board Outstanding Educator Award, an Outstanding Academic Advisor Award, and a prestigious Kemper Teaching Fellowship.

Mason is the author of many scientific papers and has obtained a number of research grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Wesley Research Foundation. More recently, she has served as principal investigator for several large statewide NSF grants and grants from the Lilly Endowment in Indiana.

Among the many national and international organizations of which she has been a part, Mason has served as president of the Pan American Society for Pigment Cell Research, president of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, member of the Advisory Committee to the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR), member of the NSF Advisory Committee for GPRA Performance Assessment, member of the executive board of the NASULGC Chief Academic Officers Group, and chair of the board of Inproteo, a start-up company collaboration between Eli Lilly, Inc., Indiana University, and Purdue University.

The search for the UI president was chaired by UI College of Dentistry Dean David Johnsen. The other search committee members of the UI Presidential Search Committee included Professor Jonathan Carlson, College of Law; Professor Lee Anna Clark, Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS); Professor Elizabeth Chrischilles, Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health; Associate Professor Sarah England, Physiology and Biophysics, Carver College of Medicine (CCOM); Professor Ed Folsom, Department of English, CLAS; Leonard Hadley, retired Chairman and CEO, Maytag Corporation; Dean Linda Maxson, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Professor Paul Rothman, DEO, Department of Internal Medicine, CCOM; Professor Gene Parkin, Department of Civil-Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering; Cheryl Reardon, Assistant to the Dean/VP for Research; Professor Jarjisu Sa-Aadu, Department of Finance, Tippie College of Business; and Sarah Vigmostad, graduate student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

STORY SOURCE: University Relations, 101 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1000.

MEDIA CONTACT: Steve Parrott,, phone 319-335-0552, cell 319-530-6972. Writers: Stephen J. Pradarelli, Lois Gray and Joe Nugent.