Harreld to continue to focus on improving UI’s financial, academic infrastructure until new president is hired

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Thursday, October 1, 2020

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld has asked the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, to begin a search for the UI’s next president. Harreld, whose contract runs through June 2023, has informed the board of his desire to retire as soon as a successor can be appointed.

“I believe institutions suffer when they rush the search for a new leader and that a smooth, deliberate process positions the new president and the university for success,” says Harreld. “I believe the search could take additional time given the pandemic, so I wanted to announce my plans now so the Board can begin right away.”

Harreld says he will serve until his successor is in place and will continue to focus on putting the university on sound financial footing and investing in key priorities including increasing faculty pay and improving graduation and retention rates, particularly for first-generation students and underrepresented minorities. He also wants to see the UI complete the current 2016–2021 strategic plan and produce a new strategic plan.

Read Harreld’s letter to campus
Read the Board of Regents statement on Harreld’s retirement

Shortly before taking office in November 2015, Harreld emphasized in a letter to the UI community his belief that public higher education is a critical component of our democratic society and a foundation of our future.

“I am a graduate of a public research institution, and I believe these institutions are the foundation of our future,” Harreld said. “Through their mission of teaching, research, and service, they promise to make our individual and collective lives better.”

UI President Bruce Harreld


Bachelor of Engineering, Purdue University, 1972; Master of Business Administration, Harvard University, 1975

Career history
Began as the UI’s 21st president Nov. 2, 2015
Faculty member, Harvard Business School, 2008–2014
Vice president, strategy, IBM, 1995–2008
President, Boston Market Co., 1993–1995
Adjunct professor, Northwestern University, 1993–1994
Senior vice president and division president, Kraft General Foods, 1983–1993
Consultant, manager, vice president, Boston Consulting Group, 1975–1983

Wife, Mary Harreld; four adult children, eight grandchildren

He also recognized the difficult headwinds such institutions face, including diminishing federal and state funding, rising tuition, increasing competition among a declining population of college-age students, and rapid technology shifts.

During his tenure as the 21st president of the UI, Harreld confronted these challenges and sought to set the UI on a path to long-term success, both financially and academically.

“Bruce has demonstrated a deep commitment to the stability of our university and inspired innovation, transparency, and new opportunities for research partnerships across our state,” says Rachel Marie-Crane Williams, associate professor and university ombuds.

“It has been a formative experience to work with the president in my role as a past officer of the faculty senate and now as a member of the Ombuds Office. He has listened, sought solutions that benefit our campus, and worked well with the Board of Regents, even in times of crisis and economic uncertainty,” Williams continues. “He has maintained an open-door policy and been available to discuss and take note of concerns and issues. I have also genuinely enjoyed getting to know his wife, Mary; she is a tireless advocate for others. Together, Bruce and Mary have been a positive force in our campus community.”

Under his leadership, the UI revamped the university’s budget model to increase transparency and collegiate control and became one of the first universities to engage in a utility public-private partnership (P3).

The new budget model includes four guidelines:

  • Each unit’s budget must be balanced every year.
  • Because the university budget builds on collegiate success, innovation and collaboration within and among colleges to improve financial performance is crucial for overall financial health.
  • Of new revenue generated by a college that is subject to being shared, such as tuition and fees, 70% remains in that college and 30% is distributed to services that college shares with others.
  • Increases or decreases in state appropriations are distributed by apportioning 60% to colleges and 40% to shared services.

In March 2020, the UI transferred management of its utility system to ENGIE North America. The 50-year partnership with ENGIE and Meridiam will allow the UI to invest $15 million per fiscal year via grants dedicated to supporting its strategic plan and core missions of teaching, research, and scholarship.

president harreld and herky at dance marathon
President Harreld speaks alongside Herky at Dance Marathon. Photo by Justin Torner.

Harreld also oversaw the conclusion of the most successful fundraising campaign in university and state of Iowa history, in which more than 272,000 UI alumni and friends contributed more than $1.975 billion to help the UI remain at the forefront of education, research, and health care. This included the campaign’s largest gift, $45 million from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust to create the Iowa Neuroscience Institute. The institute attracts top faculty from across the country to the UI to conduct groundbreaking research to find the cause of, and preventions, treatments, and cures for, the many diseases that affect the brain and nervous system.

Harreld also advocated for examining and adopting new models of collaboration to better serve the university. This included the creation of the UI Center for Advancement, formed from the merging of the UI Alumni Association and the UI Foundation with the goals of growing and strengthening relationships with alumni; creating stronger, more consistent university messages; better engaging young alumni; and increasing philanthropy.

During Harreld’s tenure, the UI also saw significant increases in research grants, including a recording-breaking $666.2 million in total external funding—which includes grants, contracts, gifts, and cooperative agreements—in fiscal year 2020. In 2019, the university landed its largest-ever external research award, $115 million from NASA for the UI’s renowned Department of Physics and Astronomy to study the mysterious, powerful interactions between the magnetic fields of the sun and Earth.

For students, Harreld pushed forward the UI’s commitment to make timely graduation a priority. The latest graduation rates reported to the Board of Regents in February 2020 show a four-year graduation rate of 55% and six-year rate of 72%, compared to 50.9% and 70%, respectively, in March 2015.

Major capital projects completed or begun during President Bruce Harreld’s tenure

  • Catlett Residence Hall
  • Finkbine Club House
  • Hancher Auditorium
  • Iowa Memorial Union
  • Pharmacy Building
  • Psychological and Brain Sciences Building
  • Stanley Museum of Art
  • Stead Family Children’s Hospital
  • Visual Arts Building
  • Voxman Music Building

He also advocated for the Board of Regents to institute a multi-year tuition model that helps students and families better plan for the cost of college.

Throughout his time at the UI, Harreld urged the university to aspire to higher national rankings and to focus and invest in its strengths, such as its creative writing programs. U.S. News & World Report this fall named the UI the top-ranked public institution and 13th overall in a new ranking that recognizes the importance of teaching writing and communications in all disciplines.

Today, Harreld is leading the university through an unprecedented period in which the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping the world and the country is grappling with social injustice.

As COVID-19 began to spread in the U.S., the UI took action to protect the Hawkeye community by migrating nearly every class to a virtual environment over the course of only two weeks during the spring 2020 semester. Over the summer, the Critical Incident Management Team worked with stakeholders across campus—including experts in medical and public health science, facility managers, research administrators, emergency managers, educational specialists, and others—to develop policies for returning employees and students to campus while limiting exposure to and slowing the spread of COVID-19.

As protests to call out continued disproportionate police brutality against people of color and a lack of racial equity and justice took place in the community and across the country, the UI announced new and continuing initiatives that aim to effect change on campus, including:

  • Releasing an update to the campus Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan, highlighting some of the efforts underway to advance a more equitable environment, and promote inclusiveness at every level of the UI. 
  • Creating a Reimagining Campus Safety Action Committee to develop a new future of public safety for the campus that further prioritizes campus diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

Harreld often cites his Big Ten education as key to shaping his passion and commitment to higher education and its future. While the university—and higher education in general—has and continues to face significant challenges, Hawkeyes persist and their creativity and intellect improves and changes lives.

The financial and academic infrastructure that Harreld has instituted and reshaped will position the UI to continue its mission of teaching, research, and service.

“On behalf of the Board of Regents, I want to thank President Harreld for his service to the University of Iowa and the entire state,” Board of Regents President Michael J. Richards says. “I have appreciated the tireless work that he has put in over the past five years, keeping UI among the nation’s top public universities. He has been dedicated to the success of our students, faculty and staff, and always willing to listen to and engage with the university community.”