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Ben Allen
Ben Allen, president of the University of Northern Iowa (Courtesy Photo)

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Members of the University of Northern Iowa community and the Cedar Valley expressed support for President Benjamin Allen after an announcement Friday that he had been diagnosed with early stages of prostate cancer.

Allen. 63, who has been UNI president since 2006, said in a statement that he'll undergo surgery in mid-January. Board of Regents President David Miles said he'll recommend regents appoint Gloria Gibson, UNI's vice president and provost, as acting president at a Dec. 9 meeting, effective from the day Allen has surgery until he is able to return to full duties..

"In addition to being an outstanding and highly regarded university president, Ben is a strong individual possessing a positive spirit, and I have every confidence that he will be successful in working his way back to good health," Miles said in a statement.

University spokesman Jim O'Connor said Allen will maintain normal duties until his surgery. An exact surgery date has not been determined. O'Connor said Allen is under the care of a doctor at The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

O'Connor added that doctors believe they were able to diagnose the cancer before it became more aggressive.

"They're feeling very positive about this," he said.

Susan Wurtz, UNI Faculty Senate chairwoman, said she was "dismayed" when she heard the news about Allen's diagnosis, but said the UNI community was backing him in his recovery.

"No doubt every member of the (Facutly) Senate is hoping this to be a very fast recovery," Wurtz said.

She said the faculty has shown similar support for others that have been diagnosed with cancer regardless of their position at the university.

"This campus, as a group, we care about each other as colleagues," she said.

Gov. Chet Culver also said in a statement that "his thoughts and prayers will be with President Allen, his wife Pat, and the entire family as they address this health challenge."

"I know the entire University of Northern Iowa family, and all Iowans who care about UNI and Iowa's public universities, will join me in providing support at this time as we all look forward to President Allen's return," Culver said.

Cedar Falls Mayor Jon Crews said of Allen, "We just wish him and his family well and hopes he has as speedy recovery."

Former Waterloo Mayor Tim Hurley said he was optimistic about Allen's prognosis and recovery prospects because he is a survivor himself, having undergone prostate surgery in April 2009 during his last year as mayor. Hurley and his wife, Kathy, are personal friends of Allen and his wife Pat.

"I was upset, even saddened" at the news, Hurley said, but added, "Having been through it, I was encouraged they caught it early. And he's going to get great care up at the Mayo Clinic. They have multiple options up there to deal with prostate cancer. And I'm very confident that, yes, he'll go though treatment, but he'll come out on the other end with no prostate problems ."

Hurley said he's himself is "very active" after his surgery, which he said one of many factors his own decision to not seek re-election, but not the sole deciding factor.

Hurley said his and Allen's diagnosis serve to underscore, once again, the importance for men over age 50 to get regular prostate checkups.

Allen said in his statement that his cancer was diagnosed after a routine exam. "I had been fortunate to have excellent health, and there were no indications of a problem," he said.

Here is the text of his letter:

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