Alan Walker - UIU president

Courtesy photo

FAYETTE, Iowa --- The president's office at the Upper Iowa University will be empty for the remainder of 2012, but officials have released few details about why Alan Walker is gone.

“He is just on a leave of absence until the first of the current calendar year,” said Monica Bayer Heaton, the school’s executive director of communications and marketing.

She declined to specify if Walker’s leave was scheduled or unexpected.

“I don’t have anything further to comment on at this time. The university doesn’t have any further comment at this time,” Bayer Heaton said.

Multiple attempts to contact the president’s office Tuesday morning were not successful. Walker’s voice, though, remained on his answering machine.

“This is Alan Walker, president of Upper Iowa University,” the message begins.

Later calls were referred to the college’s communications office.

Robert Firth, chairman of Upper Iowa’s board of trustees, also declined to elaborate.

“As you know, we basically can’t and won’t make public statements about specific things with any employees with the university,” he said.

“Dr. Walker is still an employee of the university. ... We won’t address rumors, other than he’s an employee of the university,” Firth added.

Firth declined to say whether Walker would return to his position Jan. 1 after his leave ends.

Walker is Upper Iowa’s 20th president, according to his biography available on the school’s website. He joined the administration in 2004 after previously serving as vice provost of academic affairs at Western Michigan University.

Walker also held administrative positions at Louisiana State University, the University of Kansas and the Idaho State Division of Vocational Education, according to his biography.

Bernard Pattison of Fayette, a member of the board of trustees, declined to discuss particulars but noted Walker’s time with the university.

“I think the average stay of a president is five to seven years. Alan Walker has been here seven years,” he said.

“The challenge we have is making an awful lot of things work,” Pattison added.

Walker’s biography, his photo and “message from the president” remained on the university’s website this morning. In his comments, he shares thoughts on the school’s history.

“This is an ascending institution, embodying the character and virtue of a traditional, private liberal arts university while providing greater access to higher education through its extension activities and the use of technology,” the statement reads.

Messages left for Adriel Hilton, executive assistant to the president, and Andrew Wenthe, vice president for external affairs, were not returned.

On campus, at least a few students Tuesday were hoping for more information. Junior Jordan Bell, a Peacock soccer player and sports communication major from Scotland, said students had received no official word from Upper Iowa’s administrators regarding the president’s status.

“We’ve heard 101 stories and the rumors are all over the place,” Bell said.

In his view, the school owed Walker some clarification with a statement from the board of trustees or other administrator.

“People see him as a positive figure. I feel he’s done a great job with this campus,” Bell said.

Walker two years after arriving helped initiate a $25 million capital campaign by 2014. According to the university, the effort has so far netted more than $19 million.

Upper Iowa used the money for a new liberal arts building, student center, suite-style student housing and Harms-Eischeid Stadium.

According to the university’s website, Walker in 2004 initiated “a number of strategic initiatives” designed to continue Upper Iowa’s “strategic momentum.” A formal strategic planning process followed three years later, and trustees approved a final version of the plan in 2008.

Walker early last year started an effort to “refresh” Upper Iowa’s strategic plan, and the findings were reported in August 2011. A steering committee met and the trustees were briefed on the update in September of this year, according to the school’s website.

The final “refreshment” plan is supposed to be ready for approval in 2013.

Student Sebastian Smith came to Fayette from London to play soccer, also wants to know where the university stands. He suggested Walker, though, may just be tired of the struggle.

“Most presidents stay about 10 years ... ,” Smith said.

Firth said he hoped to dispel speculation circulating on campus.

“I’ve heard some of rumors going around, and there is no truth to the rumors whatsoever,” he said.

Firth declined to say who will lead the school during Walker’s absence.

“At the appropriate time we’ll make an announcement on that,” he said. “As of right now, I’d rather not comment on that.”

Janell Bradley contributed to this story.

EARLIER STORY

FAYETTE, Iowa --- The president’s office at the Upper Iowa University will be empty for the remainder of 2012, but officials have not revealed details why Alan Walker is gone.

“He is just on a leave of absence until the first of the current calendar year,” said Monica Bayer Heaton, the school’s executive director of communications and marketing.

She declined to specify if Walker’s leave was scheduled or unexpected.

“I don’t have anything further to comment on at this time. The university doesn’t have any further comment at this time,” Bayer Heaton said.

Multiple attempts to contact the president’s office this morning were not successful. Walker’s voice, though, remained on his answering machine.

“This is Alan Walker, president of Upper Iowa University,” the message begins.

Later calls were referred to the college’s communications office.

Walker is Upper Iowa’s 20th president, according to his biography available on the school’s website. He joined the administration in 2004 after previously serving as vice provost of academic affairs at Western Michigan University.

Walker also held administrative positions at Louisiana State University, the University of Kansas and the Idaho State Division of Vocational Education, according to his biography.

Bernard Pattison of Fayette, a member of the board of trustees, also declined to reveal details but noted Walker’s time with the university.

“I think the average stay of a president is five to seven years. Alan Walker has been here seven years,” he said.

“The challenge we have is making an awful lot of things work,” Pattison added.

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