Friday, June 22, 2007

UI Hostages Free At Last -- Habemus Mamam!

June 22, 2007, 5:00, 7:00, 8:30, 10:15 a.m.

Habemus Mamam!

Turning the page.

After "UI Held Hostage Day 516" it only took three minutes to select our University's president. (Here are my own photos of the event.)

Before the meeting Michael Gartner exhibited an uncanny ability to tie his bow tie without a mirror. As Jon Stewart has said in another context, "Those things are not easy to tie." Very impressive -- as were the Regents interviews last week, and their 24-hour deliberation before selecting Mason.

Regents President Michael Gartner called the meeting to order at 3:03:30. Five Regents were present: Michael Gartner, David Miles, Bob Downer, Jack Evans, and Craig Lang. He polled those participating by phone as they reported in: Bonnie Campell, Jenny Connolly, Ruth Harkin and Rose Vasquez. At 3:05 Bonnie Campbell made a motion, essentially that they appoint Sally Mason at $450,000-plus-plus-plus (at least a 50% pay hike, details below), and by 3:05:42 it was unanimous -- to cheers. Gartner disbanded Search Committee II, and at 3:06:30 the meeting was adjourned.

Governor Chet Culver made the trip to Iowa City -- an important symbolic presence -- spoke well in support of education in general, the University of Iowa and Sally Mason in particular. He was
accompanied by his Press Secretary Courtney Greene.

Michael Gartner spoke of Mason as a scholar and a leader. He was impressed with her "sparkle" and her "passion" for education, and now especially education at Iowa, when he spoke with her. He thanked the Governor, noting that "the Board got everything it needed and everything it asked for."

All expressed thanks to the Search Committee (Gartner said they "couldn't have come up with better candidates") and Interim President Gary Fethke. (All that was overlooked was a little recognition of Provost Mike Hogan's continued quality service and class while being rebuffed.)

And then it was Sally Mason's turn. She entered the Richey Ballroom to a standing ovation, the "Iowa Fight Song" (there was no mention of the Iowa Lottery in the lyrics as a result of a coming to sanity -- and a threatened copyright suit), and all smiles.

She is already showing her ability to stand up to Michael Gartner. He had suggested she enter in a Herky costume and she refused -- noting she already had an adequate black and gold wardrobe. Both are good signs.

Her "Go Hawks!" was well delivered, though she does need a little work on the pumping right arm.

Saying Iowa was "a university of hope, a writing university," she spoke of the "Iowa Promise" (think, question, research and change; our leadership role; off-campus impact for the economy and the people; diversity as a source of strength; Iowa's relationship with the world, and the world's with Iowa). With alums, the private sector, state and university, she said she'd be doing a lot of meeting and listening, and traveling throughout the state, recognizing that she does have "a steep learning curve, but has never been afraid of heights." She quoted Goddard's line from 1907, "It is difficult to say what is impossible." It was a speech of inspiration and challenge: Iowa is a great university but -- using President Kennedy's line without the Boston accent and lilt -- "We can do better." She even demonstrated a bit of Reagan's ability to tell a moving personal story. As the child of immigrants, and the first generation to attend college, her "understanding of the power of education is very personal; education changed my life." It was all appropriate to the occasion, well delivered -- and well received.

From there it was on to a news conference with husband Ken, which they both handled well (as you'll see in some of the news stories linked below), and then the reception.

All told, it was an afternoon of relief, joy -- and hopeful anticipation of what's to come -- with a new Governor, half of a Board of Regents, and finally, President of the University of Iowa.

And it was followed by an equally enjoyable and inspiring evening, with Jim Autry and his wife, former Lt. Governor Sally Pedersen, at Prairie Lights Bookstore with "Live From Prairie Lights" host Julie Englander. (Here are sample pictures from that event.) Jim, who never was your standard Enron-type CEO, has been writing up a storm in recent years, and advising executives how to -- for want of a better expression -- be better people (in ways that also enable them to make more profit). His latest book, from which he read, is Looking Around for God: The Oddly Reverent Observations of an Unconventional Christian. If you missed the broadcast, give it a listen from WSUI's archives (it's not there yet, but should be in a few days.) Believe me, you'll be glad you did.

By this morning the lightning had flashed, the thunder had rolled, and the skies emptied of about as much water as anyone ever put in a cloud. I don't know whether it was a result of Jim finding what he was looking around for, or just an omen of the amount of changes Sally Mason and the heavenly hosts have in store for us.

In either case, I think "the times, they are a changing."

Note that the former, 100-plus-page blog entry about the final two weeks of the presidential search remains available on this blog (along with its 150-plus comments), as do all the blog entries from last November through June that track the saga and link to the news stories and other source material.

Today's stories:

Erin Jordan and Danny Valentine, "New U of I president: Big challenges don't scare me; Sally Mason, who will become the 20th president of the University of Iowa, says she can handle the learning curve," Des Moines Register, June 22, 2007 (with important "New President's To-Do List" as sidebar)

Editorial, "Diversity emphasis a plus for U of I, Iowa; New president must confront funding issues, insist on openness," Des Moines Register, June 22, 2007

Diane Heldt, "'We can aim higher;' New UI President Shares Her Vision, Receives Warm Welcome; Regents Praise Mason's Passion and Leadership," The Gazette, June 22, 2007, p. A1; Gregg Hennigan, "Purdue Praises Departing Provost," The Gazette, June 22, 2007, p. A7; plus "Mason's Salary to be $450,000," p. A1, and "Iowa Reaction" and "Sally Mason Bio," The Gazette, June 22, 2007, p. A7 (all available from The Gazette's main Web page; use drop down menus to locate "6/22/2007" and pages "A1" and "A7")

Ashton Shurson, "A Passion for Education; Sally Mason Selected As Next UI President," The Daily Iowan, June 22, 2007 (a lengthy piece for the DI, along with a nice photo gallery)

Brian Morelli, "Regents unanimously approve Mason; New UI president set to take charge Aug. 1," Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 22, 2007

Brian Morelli, "Mason To Earn $560 K As President," Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 22, 2007 (with sidebar, "President Salaries in the Big 10," revealing that Iowa's former president, Mary Sue Coleman, now at Michigan, is number one at $742,000, and that Sally Mason will be number three at $560,000)

Kathryn Fiegen, "Ken Mason focuses on teaching, will accept UI position; He has researched genetics of amphibian pigmentation," Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 22, 2007

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[Note: If you're new to this blog, and interested in the whole UI President Search story . . .

These blog entries begin with Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search I," November 18, 2006.

Wondering where the "UI Held Hostage" came from? Click here. (As of January 25 the count has run from January 21, 2006, rather than last November.)

For any given entry, links to the prior 10 will be found in the left-most column. Going directly to will take you to the latest. Each contains links to the full text of virtually all known media stories and commentary, including mine, since the last blog entry. Together they represent what The Chronicle of Higher Education has called "one of the most comprehensive analyses of the controversy." The last time there was an entry containing the summary of prior entries' commentary (with the heading "This Blog's Focus on Regents' Presidential Search") is Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search XIII -- Last Week," December 11, 2006.

My early proposed solution to the conflict is provided in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search VII: The Answer," November 26, 2006.

Searching: the fullest collection of basic documents related to the search is contained in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search - Dec. 21-25," December 21, 2006 (and updated thereafter), at the bottom of that blog entry under "References." A Blog Index of entries on all subjects since June 2006 is also available. And note that if you know (or can guess at) a word to search on, the "Blogger" bar near the top of your browser has a blank, followed by "SEARCH THIS BLOG," that enables you to search all entries in this Blog since June 2006.]

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Anonymous said...

So, do we all start now on the Iowa City Manager search?

Anonymous said...

State 29 is calling her Sally "Tiny Bubbles" Mason and gives a pretty tough look at her and Gartner.

I am not sure I will get that title out of my head now.