When did past University of Iowa presidents leave the institution?

In the last 80 years, nine Hawkeyes have taken the helm of the university. Nearly all had an interim president — something University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld hopes to avoid with announcing his retirement early.

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Jenna Galligan

The Old Capitol is seen on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Sarah Watson, Executive Editor


The state Board of Regents will be starting the search for the next UI president — more than two years before the end of Harreld’s contract — in an effort to smooth the transition process to the next head Hawkeye. 

“We announce an interim president who then is in the job for nine to 18 months. A lot of things come to a halt during that period, in my opinion, and we can do better,” Harreld told the DI in an interview as part of his reasoning for announcing his retirement early. 

The search process is set to begin at an Oct. 5 special Board of Regents meeting.

In a review of previous heads of the university, eight out of nine head Hawkeyes had interim presidents before each took charge of the university. Some interim presidents stayed for as long as two years, like Gary Fethke before David Jan Skorton was named president. 

Harreld, initially expected to stay for five years, signed a contract extension until 2023 in June, 2019.

How long have other University of Iowa Presidents stayed in their tenure? 

Sally Kay Mason (2007-2015)

  • Jean E. Robillard, interim president, 2015

David Jan Skorton (2003-2006)

  • Gary Fethke, interim president, 2006-2007

Mary Sue Coleman (1995-2002)

  • Peter E. Nathan, acting president, 1995

Hunter Ripley Rawlings III (1988-1995)

  • Peter E. Nathan, acting president, 1995

James Oliver Freedman (1982-1987)

  • Richard D. Remington, acting president, 1987-1988

Willard Lee ‘Sandy’ Boyd (1969-1981)

  • Duane C. Spriestersbach, acting president, 1981-1982

Howard Rothmann Bowen (1964-1969)

Virgil Melvin Hancher (1940-1964)

  • Chester Arthur Phillips, acting president, 1940

Eugene Allen Gilmore (1934-1940)

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