Meeting the man in the president’s chair

Interim President Ben Allen in his office on May 25.

Maggie Curry

The Daily sat down with Interim President Benjamin Allen to get to know the man in the president’s chair.

Allen said he’s taken strides to be as prepared as possible for anything to happen during his time as interim, working with his advisers to understand plans for different campus instances. His main goal is to hand Iowa State University over to the next president in even better shape than it came to him.

“There have been a lot of great things happening,” Allen said. “I want to maintain that momentum.”

Among the things Allen listed were student retention rates and fundraising goals.

He’s also made it his goal to make the transition as easy as possible for faculty, staff and students. He’s particularly aware of the unusually large amounts of change happening around the presidential position, with changes in the Board of Regents, state government and in parts of Iowa State’s administration.

“When you have a presidential change … there’s angst on campus, there’s uncertainty,” Allen said.

We’ve yet to see how Interim President Allen will handle next semester when the majority of the student body returns. He acknowledged the campus was different in the few years he had been away.

So who is Interim President Allen? He was pulled from retirement last spring, where he had been spending time with his wife, daughter and grandchildren. Before that, he was president at University of Northern Iowa, and before that had a long run at Iowa State, witnessing firsthand the transfer from former president Geoffrey to former president Steven Leath.

Grandfather, father, former provost – possible VEISHEA savior? We asked him a few personal questions to get to know the man currently sitting in the president’s office.

ISD: What is the last movie you saw?

Allen: We saw three movies right around the same time – it must have been rainy. That movie with the women who worked for NASA – Hidden Figures. Our daughter is an engineer … and I wondered, did I miss this in history class or did they not teach it?

ISD: What is your favorite trip or vacation you’ve taken?

Allen: We haven’t taken it yet, but for our 50th Anniversary my wife and I and our daughter’s family are going to London. My favorite trip would be Egypt. It’s a piece of the world you just don’t normally see. The history of it hits you.

ISD: If you’re eating out in Ames, where do you go?

Allen: The Café, if you can get a seat. We like Aunt Maude’s. There’s more restaurants than when we left.

ISD: Do you have pets?

Allen: We had two cats, until recently. We like pets, we just don’t have them right now.

ISD: What was your very first job?

Allen: Probably something agricultural, I grew up in a rural area outside of Indianapolis – well, now it’s part of Indianapolis. My first teaching job I taught inmates at a military base in Kansas. Had great attendance.

ISD: Which is better, Twizzlers or Red Vines? Have you had them?

Allen: No, I haven’t. Should I? What do you think?

What do you think? Let President Benjamin Allen know which licorice to try in our poll on Twitter.