Pixar, Disney president to chair U committee

By By Clayton Norlen

By Clayton Norlen

Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, was recently appointed as chair of the U Engineering National Advisory Council.
As the chair of the council, Catmull will work with Richard Brown, dean of the College of Engineering, and other advisory members to advance the goals and objectives of the college. The council was first established in 2004 to help guide the direction of the college with perspectives outside of academia. Brown said the council is a tool composed of alumni who have helped the college become engaged in local issues and have brought new insights to issues at the U.
“Utah’s research intensive program is making fundamental contributions to the growth and strength of our economy. When I was a student at the U in 1968, two professors, David Evans and Ivan Sutherland developed a graphics program that changed the world,” Catmull said in a statement.
After receiving the resignation of the former council chair, Kent Bowen, Brown said his first thought was, “It would be too good to be true if Ed could be the new chair.” On a business trip to San Francisco, Brown had the opportunity to ask Catmull if he would fill the new position, and Catmull agreed.
“Ed is a very loyal member of the council,” Brown said. “I think he’s only missed one meeting since the council was established and that’s remarkable considering his position at Pixar.”
The council organized the CLEAR program, which enhances students’ skills and understanding in areas of communication, leadership, ethics and research. At their most recent meeting, the council focused on matching growth targets that were established as part of the Utah Engineering Initiative in 2001 by former Gov. Michael Leavitt. The initiative challenged Utah’s university and college engineering programs to double their number of graduates.
Randy Sylvester, advisor on the council and chief technologist for L-3 Communications, said his company counts on a strong engineering program at the U to enable growth in his company. The council has the strength and ability to help the program grow because of each member’s high level of experience.
In the coming months, the council and the college are hoping to enhance the image of the engineering program on a national level and increase student enrollment. Brown said the college is aligned to meet the initiative given by Levitt. Since 1999, the college has increased the number of graduates by 65 percent and is still committed to the goal of a 100 percent increase, he said.
“The U is a first rate institution,” said Don Brown, a council member and the president of PartNet, an engineering corporation. “Its reputation will reach the actual quality of the college very soon.”
The number of students graduating in engineering rose from 482 to a total of 607 between 2002 and 2007, according to a report from the Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis. The majority of that growth came from graduate programs with an increase of 125 students receiving advanced degrees between those years.
“In Utah, and nationally, the growth of the high tech industry is dependent on the availability of engineers,” Brown said. “We want to grow as a college to fill that need for engineers.”
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Ed Catmull, CEO of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation studios, was appointed chair to the Dean of Engineering’s advisory council.