- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The board that oversees Iowa’s public universities accepted the resignation of University of Iowa President Sally Mason on Tuesday, with nothing but praise for the job she’s done the past eight years despite a sometimes rocky relationship with the board’s leadership.

Mason, who turns 65 this year, plans to retire July 31. She asked the board to allow her to stay on as a tenured faculty member, which allows her to earn 60 percent of her current salary of more than $525,000 for a year and maintain an office and a secretary. She is not required to teach.

Mason’s five-year contract expired July 31, 2012, and she’s been working since as an at-will employee. In addition to her salary, she’s paid deferred compensation of $150,000 a year through 2016. It is unclear whether she will collect the deferred funds, which are common in university president compensation packages to encourage them to stay through a determined time frame.

The deferred compensation contract “is still in play and is not scheduled to be paid out for another year,” Mason said at a news conference after the board meeting.

The board also approved her request to be given president emeritus status, which will permit her to continue to raise money until a new president is named.

“My request to become emeritus president is so that I can maintain my connection to the University of Iowa in perpetuity,” she said. “This has been a very, very important part of my life.”

Mason excelled at fundraising. A capital campaign with a goal of raising $1.7 billion by 2017 has reached $1.4 billion already.

She was also credited by board members for directing the rebuilding of the campus after flooding in 2008 affected more than 20 buildings and caused nearly $1 billion in damage.

“During her tenure, President Mason demonstrated remarkable leadership in very difficult challenges,” Regents Chairman Bruce Rastetter said.

Soon after her arrival, Mason dealt with the issue of student rape on campus when two football players were accused of assaulting another student in residence hall. An external investigation concluded the university’s policies were inadequate. The issue again came up in 2012 after she was quoted in a campus newspaper suggesting sexual assaults will never be completely stopped because they’re part of human nature. She later apologized and was criticized by some regents for failure to adequately communicate.

She began holding monthly meetings with board leadership, which Rastetter said has helped.

“We’ve appreciated the monthly meetings and we appreciate her effort to continue to focus the institution where it should be headed and continue to build on that success and strength,” Rastetter said.

The board also approved a motion to hire a search firm, select a search committee and set a timetable to search for a new president.

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