IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld announced plans Thursday to retire after the school’s board finds his successor.
Harreld, a former corporate executive and Harvard Business School instructor, has led the Big Ten university since 2015.
His tenure has been difficult in recent months as the school has faced a coronavirus outbreak, deep budget cuts and heavy turnover in key administrative positions.
His retirement will come before his employment contract expires. Last year, the Iowa Board of Regents extended Harreld’s contract through June 2023.
Harreld said that he has asked the regents to begin the search for his replacement, saying he believes it could take longer than usual given the pandemic.
“I believe institutions suffer when they rush the search for a new leader and that a smooth, deliberate process positions the new president and the university for success,” he said.
Harreld has faced criticism for bringing students back to campus in August without testing them for the virus, which quickly spread after they packed into campus bars in the first weeks.
Nearly 2,000 students have reported coronavirus infections to the university since then. Gov. Kim Reynolds has since closed the bars temporarily, and the outbreak has subsided.
Harreld’s selection over three more traditional candidates with higher education leadership experience drew criticism from faculty. He eventually won over some critics, who say the mission changes and privatization they feared under Harreld did not fully come to pass.