During his time as president of the University of Northern Iowa, Ben Allen presided over seven spring and fall commencements, attended countless athletic and performing arts events, shared words of praise and encouragement with students, and most importantly, "elevated UNI in the eyes of the citizens of Iowa."
After seven years at UNI, Allen is stepping down from his position as president and is looking forward to retirement. "We want to be with the grandkids and our daughter and her husband," said Allen.
Allen and his wife Pat will reside in St. Louis, Mo., to be close to their family. While his UNI family in Cedar Falls will most certainly miss his leadership, memories will remain.
Being with students is something Allen will miss the most. "The students have given us so much enjoyment; they're so civil, considerate and smart."
One particular event Allen has enjoyed throughout the years is the annual reception for Presidential Scholars. This group of more than 70 students spend an evening at the president's house for dessert, discussion and questions. "All 75 students would sit down for an hour and grill me, and they weren't softball questions. You really felt like that's the kind of thing we should be doing here, having that type of dialogue and exchanging ideas."
In addition to entertaining at the president's house, Allen attended as many student events as possible. "Pat and I really enjoy watching the students perform."
He has fond memories of the women's basketball team becoming MVC champions in 2010, which paved the way to their first-ever NCAA appearance, and has enjoyed watching the Varsity Men's Glee Club and Debate Team in action.
Allen wanted the university to become more visible in the state of Iowa, and he achieved that goal. "The very visible events, such as the visit by the Dalai Lama, the First Lady and the defeat of the University of Kansas by our men's basketball team were just samples of the events that helped make this happen."
He established statewide leadership in selected areas like STEM education; raised the bar substantially in the area of fundraising —specifically for faculty and students instead of buildings; and through strategic hires and new programming, Allen reinforced the importance of increased diversity for a high-quality education experience.
After seven years, it's easy to see that Allen has a passion for UNI. One thing he would like prospective students and their families to know before he departs is that "we care." It's a statement he knows incoming President Ruud will embrace and it's something that will follow Allen wherever he goes...his care for students, academics and UNI.