Farewell to Three Regents

Three Regents, Rachael Johnson, Larry McKibben and Subhash Sahai, will be honored for their service to the Board at the April meeting. For Johnson and McKibben, April’s meeting marks their final meeting as Regents, while Sahai left the Board last June.

Rachael Johnson, Sioux City
Johnson was appointed May 1, 2015 by Governor Terry Branstad to succeed Regent Hannah Walsh. Johnson graduated Summa Cum Laude from UNI with a bachelor’s degree in elementary and middle level education last year and currently is Resident Scholar for the Truman Scholarship Foundation in Washington D.C. Johnson will attend graduate school following her residence, and looks back fondly at her time on the Board.

“It has been an absolute pleasure,” she said. “It has changed my life. I went into college thinking I’d be an elementary teacher, and now here I am with a completely changed direction.”

Johnson has served as chair of the Campus and Student Affairs Committee - previously the Campus Safety and Security Committee - since its creation in 2017. Her time on the board has been marked with change, both in leadership and in her own life. Her advice to whomever succeeds her is to take that change in stride and enjoy it.

“Enjoy the time and get to know people beyond the meetings,” Johnson said. “Go to as many events as possible. See how the Board’s work extends beyond just the universities. It’s so valuable to say yes.”

Johnson may be leaving the Board, but she is thankful for her time and is looking forward to making many return trips.

“To be able to have a statewide impact starting at age 18 is crazy,” she said. “I want to return to Iowa and serve the state in some capacity. My passions lie in my home state.”

Larry McKibben, Marshalltown
McKibben was appointed June 4, 2013 by Governor Branstad to succeed Regent Craig Lang. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UNI in 1970, a J.D. from the University of Iowa in 1972, and served as a graduate teaching assistant at ISU. McKibben often noted his personal experience with all three of Iowa’s public universities and credits that experience for helping him advocate for increased collaboration within the Regents system.

“I think the best thing we did was develop collaboration among three great universities,” McKibben said. “When we started working on TIER, our goals were to save a lot of money and to promote collaboration. We’ve done both.”

TIER - the Transparent Inclusive Efficiency Review - was first implemented in earnest in February 2014. With McKibben as the program’s most outspoken supporter, TIER policy recommendations have saved Iowa taxpayers millions and have put programs in place to create further savings for years to come.

“Everything we did, we did because we had great collaboration,” McKibben said. 

In addition to TIER, McKibben also was a vocal advocate for first-generation students and is proud to have had a hand in hiring all four leaders at the universities and special schools. Time, or a lack of time to engage in all these passions, McKibben says, is one reason he’s retiring.

“There are so many things I’m passionate about,” McKibben said. “But there’s only so much time. First generation students from diverse backgrounds — like what we have here in Marshalltown — we need to help those folks get into college. I was glad to have spent a lot of time working on that.”

Subhash Sahai, Webster City
Sahai was appointed by Governor Branstad on May 1, 2013, succeeding Regent Jack Evans. Sahai, who earned a master’s degree in biology from UNI in 1970 and a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Iowa in 1973, has practiced medicine in Webster City since 1976. He is the medical director of the Van Diest Family Health Clinic and often renders free medical services to the needy in the Webster City Community.

Sahai made the decision to leave the Board in June 2018 to focus his time providing care for his patients. The decision, he says, was not easy.

“I hated to leave,” Sahai said. “It’s a very coveted position that allows you to really make a difference. But I had to put my patients first. There is only so much time to devote, and the Board is a very time-heavy commitment.”

Sahai will remember his time on the Board fondly, especially his many meetings with faculty, staff and students. It’s the conversations, Sahai said, that he will miss the most.

“The night before many meetings, I'd go to the student union and just sit there and talk to the students,” he said. “I liked their honesty. They were upfront and gave me their unvarnished opinion. We have students from all kinds of backgrounds at our universities and it was great to get those differing perspectives. I talked with students and professors every chance I got. It was fascinating to hear every side of what we were doing.”

Sahai also served as clinical assistant professor in the Department of Family Practice at the Carver College of Medicine at the UI prior to his appointment to the Board. He was a former Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Air National Guard and a former Board member of both the Webster City Community Schools and Hamilton County Public Health Nursing Service. These opportunities helped color his perspective during his time on the Board.

Sahai and his wife, Dr. Sushma Sahai, also have three children - Aalok, Rohit and Seema; all doctors.

“I've been blessed in many ways,” he said. “My kids could afford to go to school and take classes to become whatever they wanted. Addressing the concerns of students who maybe didn't come from something like that was really important to me.”

Though Sahai hasn’t served as a Regent in nearly a year, he has great respect for the Board and its members and is proud of his tenure.

“All of the Board members, in my experience, really want to help students and the universities,” he said. “The board members are good people who want to serve Iowa and I was blessed to be counted among their ranks.”