Higher education

University of Northern Iowa Provost Jim Wohlpart to serve as interim president

Board of Regents to make appointment in wake of Bill Ruud's resignation

Jim Wohlpart
Jim Wohlpart

Jim Wohlpart, provost and executive vice president for University of Northern Iowa, will be named interim president of the institution at the Board of Regents’ upcoming meeting next week.

In that position, which Wohlpart will assume July 3, he will make an annual salary of $357,110 until a new president is on the job, according to Board of Regents documents made public Tuesday.

Wohlpart will be taking over for UNI President Bill Ruud, who announced earlier this month plans to take over the presidency at Marietta College — a small, private institution in Ohio — in July. Ruud, 63, is leaving UNI, which boasts an enrollment of nearly 12,000 students, for the about 1,100-student Marietta just three years after his arrival in 2013.

Even though the board had given him annual salary raises, bringing him to $357,110, they hadn’t renewed Ruud’s contract, which expires June 1. He could have continued working without a contract, like former University of Iowa President Sally Mason, but some critics question whether the board’s decision not to renew his contract was part of an effort to push him out.

Ruud, on the other hand, has told The Gazette he simply was “recruited hard” by Marietta and felt it was a “great next stop” in his career.

In addition to naming Wohlpart the interim UNI president at its meeting next week, the Board of Regents will accept Ruud’s resignation and authorize Executive Director Robert Donley to “develop a process and timetable for the presidential search at the University of Northern Iowa.”

Donley will be due with a report to the board by July 18, according to regent documents.

Members of the UNI faculty have said they’ll be watching the board closely as it launches a search for a new president after the one it conducted last year at the University of Iowa resulted in widespread criticism and votes of no-confidence among faculty and student leaders.

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The board hired UI President Bruce Harreld despite vocal criticism of his candidacy. And campus constituents continued to call for resignations from Harreld and Rastetter after details emerged of previously undisclosed meetings involving Harreld and members of the search committee and regents.

Wohlpart, who took over as UNI provost exactly one year ago, told The Gazette on Tuesday that it’s “too early to be thinking about the search for a new president.” But, he said, “I am deeply honored to be asked to serve in this capacity and look forward to continuing the amazing work that is occurring on our campus.”

In the immediate future, he said, UNI administrators “will be working to build on the incredible momentum that exists on our campus and to elevate the great teaching and learning that occurs.”

Wohlpart said the campus also will spend time thanking Ruud for his service.

“He has assisted the university in increasing enrollment and brought a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to the campus,” Wohlpart said.

“The University of Northern Iowa is an innovative and close knit community of students, staff, faculty, and administrators,” he said. “Our immediate task is to make certain that our momentum continues and is indeed accelerated.”

Before taking over as UNI provost, Wohlpart served as dean of undergraduate studies and an English professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. He earned a doctorate in English and a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy from the University of Tennessee. He earned a master’s in English from Colorado State University and spent 21 years at Florida Gulf Coast, where he held a variety of positions — including associate dean for planning and assessment in the College of Arts and Sciences.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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