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IOWA CITY -- Accepting praise Thursday from the Board of Regents as he prepares to retire after six years on the job, University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld said he “always” planned to donate millions worth of deferred compensation he would have earned if he stayed longer back to campus.
“There’s been a lot of speculation about why someone would want to give up their long-term incentive plan, and I just want to remind some of you — politely — that Mary and I have always planned on giving those funds back to the university, specifically to assist the university in relocating our cultural houses to Hubbard Park,” Harreld said while appearing virtually as the regents met in person on his campus.
The Gazette has not previously reported Harreld discussing plans to donate the $2.3 million worth of deferred compensation to the university. Board and UI officials would not answer questions Thursday about when and where he had previously announced that.
The four cultural centers help create a “’home away from home’ atmosphere” and provide cultural education, leadership skills and organizational development, according to the UI. The four are the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Latino Native American Cultural Center, the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center and the Pride Alliance Center.
The regents are meeting in person mostly in closed session at the Levitt Center on the Iowa City campus to interview four finalists selected to succeed Harreld after he retires. They are expected to announce a new president Friday.
Regents began their meeting Thursday in open session by reading a resolution expressing “deep gratitude to President Harreld for his expertise, dedication, and extraordinary service to the Board of Regents, the University of Iowa, its students and families, and all Iowans.”
The resolution praised Harreld’s pursuit of the $1.165 billion public-private partnership for operation of the UI utilities system; his decision to merge the UI Foundation and Alumni Association into one entity; external funding increases; and construction projects started or finished on his watch — including the Stead Family Children’s Hospital, Hancher Auditorium, Catlett Residence Hall and the new Stanley Museum of Art.
When Harreld on Oct. 1 announced plans to retire — three years before his contract was to expire and just one year after extending it — he said he wanted to give the board more time to choose a successor and vowed to stay until a new president started, in hopes of a smooth transition.
Harreld suggested he could be here until 2023, or after. But he recently announced regents President Mike Richards asked him to stay until May 16 — the end of the semester.
And, despite earlier comments, Harreld isn’t planning to serve the board or the UI in another capacity until his contract expires, meaning he’ll forego $2.3 million in deferred compensation.
“If the president’s employment by the board terminates prior to July 1, 2023, for any reason other than his death, disability, or involuntary separation from service without cause, the entire amount of the president’s benefit shall be unconditionally forfeited by the president and shall be distributed by the trustee to the university,” according to the compensation plan. The agreement does not mention a planned donation or terms for one.
In his comments Thursday, Harreld acknowledged that by retiring early he’s losing control of those funds and his ability to donate them.
“But when it comes before you, it’s our fervent hope that the board will look very favorably on this proposal to relocate our cultural houses from the fringes of our campus to Hubbard Park,” he said. “And that the proceeds of our long-term incentive will be used to assist in funding this effort.”
‘Neighborhood of the cultural centers’
In his remarks, Harreld said Hubbard Park — located next to the Iowa Memorial Union — is “right in the center of our campus, which is where I think the cultural centers belong.”
In response to questions about whether the university has drafted plans to move its cultural centers to Hubbard Park — including how much that might cost, a timeline and what it would mean for the green space there — UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck said the campus would need Board of Regents approval to proceed with planning.
“The university appreciates President Harreld making the cultural centers a priority during his tenure,” Beck said in a statement. “Like with all major campus projects, the university would need to coordinate with Center for Advancement to determine potential philanthropic support and with Campus Planning and Development."
Leaders with the UI cultural centers didn’t answer questions Thursday about the prospect of relocating the houses.
A campus planning committee’s meeting notes from October — two weeks after Harreld announced his retirement — report that “a neighborhood of the cultural centers has been envisioned to create autonomy yet collaborative space in a more central location on the main campus.”
“The southwest segment of Hubbard Park has been identified as an optimal location,” according to the notes, which add, “Discussion included the appropriate space needs and the active sharing and celebrating of the history of this area of Iowa City, as well as the namesake of the park.” The park is named after Philip Hubbard, the first Black professor at the UI who went on to become the first Black vice president at a Big Ten institution.
Though the regents were meeting on his own campus, Harreld did not attend in person. UI officials would not answer questions fro The Gazette about why he did not attend or from where he was participating remotely.
“There was a virtual option,” regents spokesman Josh Lehman said, “if anyone wanted to use it.”
He noted that members of the presidential search committee also were participating remotely.
WHEREAS, Bruce Harreld was selected by the Board of Regents to be the 21st President of the University of Iowa effective November 2, 2015; and
WHEREAS, the University’s graduation rates have continued to rise under his leadership, student retention rates have remained extremely high and well above the national average, and students’ average time to graduation has continued to fall; and
WHEREAS, during his tenure, the University became one of the first to engage in a utility public-private partnership, or P3. This groundbreaking, $1.165 billion dollar, 50-year collaboration with ENGIE and Meridiam will help provide the University the resources it needs to support its core missions of teaching, research and scholarship; and
WHEREAS, while he was president, the University saw significant increases in research grants, including a record-breaking $666.2 million in total external funding during fiscal year 2020, while in 2019, the University landed its largest-ever external research award, $115 million from NASA; and
WHEREAS, his continuing advocacy for seeking new models of collaboration helped lead to the creation of the University of Iowa Center for Advancement, a merging of alumni and foundation efforts with the goals of growing and strengthening relationships with alumni, and increasing philanthropy; and
WHEREAS, numerous major capital projects on the University’s campus were either completed or begun during his tenure, including the Stead Family Children’s Hospital, College of Pharmacy Building, Catlett Residence Hall, Hancher Auditorium, and Stanley Museum of Art; and
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Regents, state of Iowa, expresses its deep gratitude to President Harreld for his expertise, dedication and extraordinary service to the Board of Regents, the University of Iowa, its students and families, and all Iowans.
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