Hold on to your hats: Search for new president coming to UNI

I have a bad feeling about this: after three years as University of Northern Iowa president, Dr. William Ruud is leaving Cedar Falls to lead Marietta College in Ohio. That college and the Iowa Board of Regents confirmed Ruud’s plans shortly after Jeff Charis-Carlson broke the news yesterday.

Moving from the top job at a well-regarded state university to a private college one-tenth the size isn’t a typical path for academic leaders. So, did Ruud jump or was he pushed?


Maybe Ruud got tired of trying to stitch together a budget when our state lawmakers chronically under-fund higher education. Of Iowa’s three state universities, UNI has the largest percentage of in-state students, who pay lower tuition. The Board of Regents had requested an additional $7.65 million for UNI next year, but the Iowa House and Senate approved only an extra $2.8 million, which works out to about 3 percent of UNI’s budget.

On the other hand, the Regents gave Ruud every reason to look for greener pastures. As Charis-Carlson noted in his story, the UNI president’s three-year contract

expires June 1. Over the past three years, there have been no extensions approved by the regents.

Ruud’s 2013 contract also did not allow him the possibility of tenure at UNI, which has been a point of contention among some faculty leaders at the university.

“I think it is standard practice that a university president with an academic background should be offered a tenured faculty position in a university department,” Scott Peters, then chairman of the faculty at UNI, told the Press-Citizen last year. “I think (being granted tenure) offers the president a little bit of independence when dealing with governing boards.”

In contrast, University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld was offered tenure in his contract last year, despite not holding a doctorate in any field. (Harreld soon announced that he would not seek a tenured position at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business.)

Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter has highly praised Harreld on many occasions. His official comment on Ruud’s departure was less effusive. I enclose that statement below, along with Marietta College’s announcement.

Of immediate concern to anyone who followed the Harreld saga last year: does Rastetter already have someone in mind to lead UNI? And even if he doesn’t, what person with a traditional background in academic administration would waste time applying for the job in Cedar Falls after the sham search conducted for the University of Iowa’s president? In its report on the Harreld hiring, the American Association of University Professors concluded,

The board [of Regents] acted throughout in bad faith, and not toward the faculty alone. The board allowed prominent administrators from major institutions of higher education to believe they were participating as candidates in an honest, open search when the process in actuality was being manipulated to reach a foreordained result.

Ditchwalk took a close look at those findings here.

I commented last year that “filling the next vacancy for any state university presidency in Iowa will be a nightmare. Qualified applicants will have no desire to waste their time on kabuki theater.” I was hoping that prediction wouldn’t be tested so soon.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Also, I would be grateful for permission to use a lovely photo of the UNI campus, if anyone in the Bleeding Heartland community has one to share. Clearly this presidential search will bear watching.

UPDATE: Ruud told the Cedar Rapids Gazette’s Vanessa Miller on May 19 that people from Marietta College “reached out to me, they recruited me.”

“Contracts had nothing to do with it,” he told The Gazette. “It was an opportunity that was presented to me at another great university.” […]

Ruud said he wasn’t motivated to leave by challenges in obtaining adequate funding from the state. The regents for the upcoming budget year requested an increase in state appropriations of more than $20 million for their three public universities, Instead, the universities got a combined $6.3 million more. […]

Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo, said the search to replace Ruud cannot unfold like the recent search for a new UI president.

“My message to the board is that cannot happen at UNI,” Danielson said. “We have been through enough.” […]

“Given the process we used to hire the University of Iowa president, I’m going to be engaged and advocating for a more open selection process,” Danielson said.

Danielson was also quoted in Charis-Carlson’s follow-up story for the Des Moines Register on May 19.

“When you have a talented president who has reached these benchmarks — increasing enrollment, creating a much better budget position, leveraging private donations and investments … boosting morale around campus personally and professionally — how you don’t renew his contract is beyond me,” said Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls.

Danielson called on the regents to provide more details about exactly why Ruud’s contract had never been extended. Revealing such information is crucial, he said, for the UNI community to know what the regents will expect from Ruud’s successor.

“We need to know what it was that Bill Ruud was not able to do,” Danielson said, “because odds are (those things) will be asked of the next president as well.”

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad first learned of Ruud’s decision on Wednesday night and “was not a part of any discussion regarding President Ruud’s contract,” according to an email Thursday from gubernatorial spokesman Ben Hammes. […]

Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, called on the regents to implement a search process that was “open, transparent, credible and skills-based.”

“Let me be very clear: what happened at the University of Iowa cannot happen at the University of Northern Iowa,” said Danielson, referring to the criticism of last year’s UI search.

Danielson represents Iowa Senate district 30, which includes Cedar Falls and the UNI campus. He is up for re-election this year and has been among the Democratic incumbents targeted by Republicans. During his 2012 re-election campaign, he highlighted the differences between GOP and Democratic budget proposals UNI and higher education generally. Given Governor Terry Branstad’s 2015 education funding vetoes, I expected those issues to be salient in this year’s race against challenger Bonnie Sadler. A UNI presidential search playing out during the general election campaign could galvanize more support for Danielson among campus stakeholders.

LATER UPDATE: Former Iowa Board of Regents President Michael Gartner discussed Ruud’s departure and why the current funding system is “rigged” against UNI in the “Civic Skinny” column from the May 25 edition of Des Moines-based weekly Cityview. Excerpts:

Marietta College, now with about 1,200 students, is an ordinary small college in an ordinary small town. The college fights for money and students, has laid off nearly 40 people in the past couple of years, and has seen enrollment drop markedly. The town, now with about 14,000 citizens, has lost population steadily for the past 40 years. Income is well below the average for the state and the nation, and the poverty rate is well above. […]

So why would Bill Ruud leave UNI for that — for a place with money woes, with enrollment woes, and with an unhappy faculty carping about style? If he wanted those problems, he could have stayed at UNI. […]

[…] Ruud — a sitting president at a school 10 times the size of Marietta — must look like a dream come true for the Ohio school. And, in fact, he might be. Marietta is probably more manageable than UNI.

For the Legislature, the Regents — and I was one for more than six years — the two bigger state universities and the economy have combined to slowly strangle UNI, a wonderful university that provides Iowa towns with teachers and Iowa insurance and finance firms with accountants. And Iowa church choirs with beautiful voices. […]

If nothing is done, enrollment at UNI — 10,169 undergraduates this year, compared to 11,407 five years ago — will continue to erode. Faculty will depart. Finances will deteriorate. A fine school will slip into mediocrity. And the state of Iowa will have a huge problem.

Charis-Carlson reported for the Iowa City Press-Citizen on May 25,

“This process needs to be deliberative, thoughtful and inclusive so that we can hire the best person to serve as the next president of UNI,” Rastetter said. “We will have more to say about the search process at the June meeting.”

Since Ruud’s announcement, members of the UNI faculty and community have been vocal about the need for the search for the next UNI president to be open, transparent, credible and skills-based. The most recent presidential searches at UNI, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa have included bringing finalist candidates to campus for public interviews.

Since last year’s hiring of UI President Bruce Harreld, however, Rastetter has suggested that it might benefit future boards to conduct fully closed searches for university presidents rather than release the names of more than one finalist.

“The hiring of a university president is the single most important thing a board does,” Rastetter said Wednesday [May 25]. “We take this responsibility seriously and want to make sure we take the proper time to put together a process that will ensure the best possible candidate is found.”

Iowa Board of Regents press release, May 18:

Statement from Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter on Dr. William Ruud Being Named President at Marietta College

The Board of Regents thanks President Ruud for his extraordinary service to the University of Northern Iowa and the state. Under his leadership, there has been great progress made at UNI, and he leaves UNI in a stronger position than when he arrived.

The Board wishes President Ruud and his wife, Judy, well with this new opportunity at Marietta College and in all their future endeavors.

Marietta College press release, May 18:

Marietta College announced today that Dr. William N. Ruud, current President at the University of Northern Iowa, will be the College’s 19th President. Dr. Ruud will succeed Dr. Joseph Bruno, whose four-year tenure at Marietta ended on May 13.

The College’s Board of Trustees unanimously elected Dr. Ruud, said George Fenton, Chair of the Board. Dr. Ruud will also have the title of Professor of Management.

“Today, Marietta College selected a president with extensive experience in leadership, and who also has a demonstrated record of improving enrollment and other revenues,” Fenton said. “President-elect Ruud has consistently impressed everyone involved in the search process with his forthrightness and personality. Dr. Ruud expects to be an important catalyst for improvement across campus.”

In his three years at Northern Iowa, Dr. Ruud has been part of a positive trend that has seen enrollment improve to 12,300 students — while experiencing increases in freshman, sophomore, junior, graduate, transfer, international and underrepresented minority students. Fundraising at UNI was also on the upswing with more than $50 million since his arrival.

“Dr. Ruud is the ideal choice as the next president of Marietta College,” said Presidential Search Committee Co-Chair Grant Callery ’68. “He is a sitting president and has a proven track-record of success in regard to enrollment and fundraising. At this time, Marietta College needs a dynamic leader to navigate the challenges that all small, liberal arts colleges face in the nation. The Board and the search committee are excited that Dr. Ruud is enthusiastic about joining the Marietta College family.”

Marietta will be Ruud’s third presidency, as he was the 15th president at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania from 2007-13. During his time at Shippensburg, Ruud implemented a facilities master plan in connection with the university’s strategic plan and led the university’s development of an Academic Master Plan.

“After my visit and contact with so many great people, I realized what a special place Marietta College is and can be,” Dr. Ruud said. “ ‘The Marietta Effect’ is more than alive, it’s thriving. Judy and I both felt it the moment we arrived. It’s exciting, progressive, challenging and serves students well as they become ready for what’s next in their lives. I can’t wait to become 110 percent engaged with the College, community and region.”

Dr. Ruud earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration and Hospital Administration from the University of North Dakota. He earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior/Management from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Dr. Ruud is also a proud U.S. Army veteran, serving as an Armor and Adjutant General officer from 1978-81.

Dr. Ruud is honored that he has been able to serve in a variety of leadership roles at colleges and universities across the U.S. He began his academic career teaching business courses at Northwestern Louisiana State University in 1978. From 1979-81, he conducted his research in leadership assessment at the U.S. Army Research Institute in Washington, D.C.; he also taught management theory and organizational behavior courses at Central Michigan University from 1980-81. From 1981-93, Dr. Ruud taught management, organizational behavior, strategy, policy and ethics courses at the University of Toledo, and was awarded tenure in 1987. He served as an Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies, coordinated the MBA program as an Associate Dean, served as Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, Assistant Director of the University Honors Program and eventually served as Interim Dean of the College of Business Administration at Toledo.

In 1993, Dr. Ruud was appointed Dean of the College of Business & Economics and hired as a tenured Professor of Management at Boise State University. He was promoted in 1998 to Vice President for Institutional Advancement. At Boise State, Dr. Ruud was selected as Administrator of the Year, served as the president of Boise Industrial Foundation, completed a $12.5 million campaign for a new engineering facility, established faculty fellowships and created endowments to support student research.

Dr. Ruud and his wife of 39 years, Judy, are looking forward to moving into the President’s House with their cockapoo, Fuzzy. Judy, an attorney, started her private practice with Eastman & Smith in Toledo Ohio, and currently teaches Business Law and a related class at the University of Northern Iowa.

“I’d like to thank the search committee, the Board of Trustees, and everyone at Marietta College and in Marietta that made our visit so meaningful,” Dr. Ruud said. “Judy and I are truly grateful for the opportunity to become part of such a wonderful College and community.”

Marietta College officials conducted a national search and received more than 100 applications. Nominations were solicited from the College’s family and friends, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, supporters, community and business leaders, and civic leaders. The search committee held multiple outreach forums with the leaders of these various groups to gain insight into the qualities and characteristics they needed to seek in the next president, as well as opportunities and challenges facing the future of Marietta College.

The search committee worked with search consultants R.H. Perry & Associates to conduct a successful search process.

“Grant and I want to thank everyone who served on the search committee, and our partners at R.H. Perry,” said Presidential Search Committee Co-Chair Barbara Perry Fitzgerald ’73. “We were working under a condensed timeframe, but the committee members were diligent in reviewing all applicants and we believe we found the best fit for Marietta College. I also want to thank the Search Advisory Committee — a cross section of faculty, staff and students — who provided the search committee with invaluable insight after meeting with each of the candidates.”

Dr. Ruud will begin his Marietta presidency on July 3, and Tim Cooper ’73 will serve as interim President until his arrival.

UPDATE: UNI released this statement on May 18.

UNI president leaving for Marietta College

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – University of Northern Iowa President Bill Ruud is leaving the university to accept a position as the president of Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio.

Ruud will assume his new duties at Marietta College on July 3. An interim president will be named at the June Board of Regents meeting.

“As we look to the future, it is important to remember that the only constant in our lives is change,” said Ruud. “Our time in Cedar Falls has been a blessing. The relationships that have been made will last forever. As the university moves toward its 150th anniversary in 2026, it is my hope that the students, faculty and staff here will continue to make UNI what it is – the University of Nothing Impossible.”

In his three-year tenure as president of UNI, Ruud has helped guide the university with a commitment to achieving academic excellence and increasing student enrollment. For three consecutive years, UNI has ranked second in the “Best Regional Universities (Midwest)” category for public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Enrollment numbers have also continued to climb each year under Ruud’s leadership, alongside improved 4- and 6-year graduation rates.

Ruud was named the 10th president of UNI in 2013. Prior to his arrival at UNI, Ruud served as president of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.

One more comment from Charis-Carlson’s report:

“Frankly, I’m shocked by this announcement,” said Joe Gorton, a UNI professor of criminology and union president of UNI’s United Faculty/AAUP. “On the whole, President Ruud worked well with United Faculty. Unless there is something I don’t know about, it’s hard to imagine any benefit from his departure that will exceed the fiscal and intangible costs UNI is about to incur.”

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