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January 10, 2003
Volume 40, No. 6


The president among us: David J. Skorton named Iowa's 19th leader
Osterberg takes public health issues on the road
Oakdale complex has many facets
Oakdale lab space good fit for San Diego company
Winter break? For some, it's time for hard work that can't be done during academic year

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The president among us: David J. Skorton named Iowa's 19th leader

David Skorton talks with reporters shortly after his presidency is announced.
Photo by Tim Schoon.

Even though his presidency will not officially begin until March 1, David J. Skorton is already calling on the University community for input and guidance in preparation for his new role.

“Faculty and staff can expect me to be an even closer colleague to them than I have been in the past. I want to personally hear their concerns. They can begin to contact me right now, via e-mail or however they feel comfortable, and talk to me,” Skorton said, immediately following the announcement of his appointment as the University’s 19th president by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, on Jan. 5 in Des Moines.

“In particular, in the times we’ve faced budget cuts—and we’re not out of the woods yet—it’s crucial that we develop an actual, genuine consensus, about how to move the University forward.

“In the coming weeks, I’ll be meeting with faculty, staff, and student leadership. I’m in a listening and learning mode right now. I have been for 23 years, and I’ll continue to be.”

Skorton has been a UI faculty member since 1980. He was appointed vice president for research in 1992 and named interim vice president for external relations in July 2000. He became vice president for research and external relations last March, his roles combined, in part, as a cost-saving effort.

In addition, he holds a joint appointment as professor of internal medicine and professor of electrical and computer engineering and of biomedical engineering.

Because of the demands of his new office, Skorton expects to significantly reduce the time he has devoted to his medical practice. However, he noted that turning over to someone else the families he has cared for and known for years “is not without emotion.”

As for his other immediate plans once officially becoming president, Skorton expects to take a hard look at reorganization of the central administration. His combined administrative position will be opened when he becomes president, as will the position of provost because Jon Whitmore announced last year that he will be stepping down.

“There’s already been an enormous amount of streamlining throughout the University, with about 300 jobs lost through attrition,” Skorton said. “There’s not an enormous amount of downsizing left to do; this is more about reorganizing.”

Among the issues he expects to tackle in upcoming weeks and months, Skorton said he:

• believes it is vital for the University to participate in the life of the state and in its economy as well as to work closely with the Board of Regents, other universities, the governor, and Iowa Legislature to stabilize the budget.

• vows to be a “strong defender” of the state’s high school students having access to the University, especially at a time when the financial atmosphere in the state threatens a denial of that access because of increased tuition costs. He will aim to work with the Board of Regents to “stabilize the tuition and make any tuition increases more predictable.”

• will continue efforts already begun by Interim President Willard “Sandy” Boyd to reconnect with the state of Iowa through outreach efforts, determined to “reach out in more substantive ways.” He reiterates the comments of past University presidents, saying, “We’re not the University of Eastern Iowa . . . we’re The University of Iowa, here for all the state.”

• will continue to emphasize the importance of the University’s core disciplines, encourage interdisciplinary work, and celebrate the unique blending of arts and sciences that occurs here. Because he is a jazz musician as well as a doctor and professor of engineering, he is keenly aware of the importance of uniting the University as one cooperative, cohesive unit.

• plans to make continued recognition and support of staff, as well as faculty, a high priority. He calls himself a “strong believer in celebrating staff and their achievements.”

Skorton has headed a research and development program that ranks among the nation’s top 20 public research universities in obtaining external funding. Under his administration, yearly totals for external funding increased from about $150 million to $341 million. He has overseen more than 30 administrative units.

Skorton earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1970 and an M.D. in 1974, both from Northwestern University. Following a medical residency and cardiology fellowship at the University of California at Los Angeles, he came to The University of Iowa as an instructor. He was named assistant professor in internal medicine in 1981 and assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering in 1982. He was promoted to associate professor in 1984 and to professor in 1988.

Before being named vice president, Skorton served in a variety of administrative positions, including director of the Cardiovascular Image Processing Laboratory (1982-1996), director of the Division of General Internal Medicine (1985-1989), and associate chair for clinical programs in the Department of Internal Medicine (1989-1992).

His research has focused on congenital heart disease in adolescents and adults, and on cardiac imaging and computer image processing. He also has been a national leader in research ethics.

Owen J. Newlin, president of the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, highlighted these varied roles and accomplishments among the reasons Skorton was the board’s top choice.

“David Skorton brings to The University of Iowa an extraordinary combination of higher education expertise, administrative experience, exemplary leadership abilities, and a proven record of professional success,” Newlin said at the announcement. “He possesses an excellent understanding of the mission and importance of a multifaceted teaching and research university.”

Skorton was among six finalists recommended to the board by a 25-member search committee. Newlin commended the University’s presidential search committee for its initial recommendation of “an outstanding field of candidates, all highly qualified,” which made the decision “a difficult one.”

Earlier in the weekend, two finalists withdrew from consideration. They were Gretchen M. Bataille, senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina, and Gregory H. Williams, president of the City College of New York and a former UI law professor and administrator.

Other finalists were Edward J. Ray, executive vice president and provost of The Ohio State University; Richard H. Herman, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Rodney A. Erickson, executive vice president and provost of The Pennsylvania State University.

The Regents announced that Skorton will make an annual salary of $281,875, plus moving expenses and fringe benefits. He will live in the president’s residence at 102 Church St. Boyd will continue to serve as interim president until March 1.

Skorton expects to hit the streets of campus and of Iowa City, as well as the highways and scenic roads across Iowa, sending out his message and talking with people about their issues and needs.

“I’m not going to be a president that sits in 101 Jessup Hall,” he said. “I’m going to be all over. To the 23,000* people who work at the University, I am now your servant, working to move us along a continuing path of excellence. And I want all the faculty and staff to think of themselves as servants to the state, too.”

He praised the University’s employees and said he was honored to be president “at a most extraordinary institution in a most extraordinary state.”

There was one other request made to the public by Dr. Skorton, the new president: “Please, call me David.”

Article by Amy Schoon

* Editor’s note: This figure includes part-time and full-time employees, including faculty and staff, residents, graduate assistants, and student employees.


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