Higher education

Regents director appointed chairman of national group

Robert Donley to head State Higher Education Executive Officers Association

Robert Donley, the executive director of the state Board of Regents in Iowa.
Robert Donley, the executive director of the state Board of Regents in Iowa.

The executive director of Iowa’s Board of Regents on Wednesday was named 2016-2017 chairman of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, a Boulder-based group that — among other things — advocates for improved access and participation in higher education.

Robert Donley has been an association member since his 2008 hire to the Board of Regents, and he served as chairman-elect this past year.

George Pernsteiner, association president, said a chairman’s time commitment can vary — although they are expected to attend an annual meeting, an executive meeting and a policy conference.

“It depends on how the chair wants to approach the job,” he said.

Josh Lehman, a Board of Regents spokesman, said Donley’s time commitment with the association is to be “minimal.”

The position is unpaid, although the association covers travel costs for the executive meeting, Pernsteiner said. The association’s 61 members represent every state, and the chairperson’s home state and institutions can benefit from its representative taking a leadership role.

“Historically, it has happened that the states and the institutions of the chair have been engaged in our externally funded projects,” Pernsteiner said. “There is also the opportunity to gain prominence in the national discussion — as the chair does spend time talking with leaders in Congress and the U.S. Department of Education.”

Donley’s tenure leading the association begins Oct. 1.

“I am extremely grateful to have been voted chair for SHEEO,” Donley said in a statement. “I am humbled and honored to be selected by my peers from across the nation. I look forward to working to help move our organization forward in its role in developing state and federal policy for greater access to higher education.”


Donley, who recently earned his doctorate in higher education administration from Northeastern University in Boston, also serves as a member of the National Association of System Heads.

At the Board of Regents meeting in July, President Bruce Rastetter awarded Donley a previously-approved $8,000 performance incentive for the year that just ended. Donley didn’t receive any new annual compensation increase.

Days before that announcement, The Gazette reported Donley made more than double his salary cap in the 2015 budget year.

State law limits the board director’s salary at $154,300, but Donley made $338,466 in 2015 thanks to bonuses and deferred compensation. Donley has two, two-year deferred compensations still scheduled to pay out — one worth $125,000 and another worth $140,000.

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