Committee Created to Find New University President

Committee Created to Find New University President

By Elise Vandersteen Bailey, Investigative Coordinator

The Utah State Board of Regents, the governing body for all public colleges and universities in Utah, has announced the creation of a Presidential Search Committee to find the replacement for David Pershing, who has been president of the University of Utah for the last five years.

The 24-member committee is tasked with searching for applicants and holding public meetings with faculty, staff, students, and the community for input. In addition to calling for applications, they will interview applicants and recommend three possible candidates to the Board of Regents, who will make the final decision.

The Presidential Search Committee consists mostly of members of the Board of Regents, Board of Trustees, and the U’s administration — including deans and department chairs. It also includes one student, Zach Berger, the Student Body President. Regent Harris H. Simmons and Trustee H. David Burton will lead the committee.

The Board said in a May statement that the process will likely take about a year to complete.

The search for a new president began in May when Pershing announced before the U’s academic senate that he wanted to step down as president. He had originally planned to make the announcement in August but chose to speed up the process in wake of the feud over Mary Beckerle’s position as CEO and Director of Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI). Pershing and Vivian Lee — CEO of the University of Utah Health, senior vice president of health sciences, and dean of the school of medicine — dismissed Beckerle from her position in late April, asking Kathleen Cooney to serve as HCI’s CEO and Director until someone was hired to replace Beckerle. However, Beckerle was later reinstated after pressure from employees, the public and the cancer center’s namesake and private funding source, Jon Huntsman, Sr.

Cooney was also chosen to be a member of the Presidential Search Committee in her position as chair of the Department of Internal Medicine.

Lee later resigned from her positions, and it was announced that A. Lorris Betz would serve in her former positions until a replacement is found. At the time Pershing announced he would step down, he said he made the decision partly because he wants Lee’s replacement to be chosen by the new president of the U, so Betz will likely work as head of the hospital system for at least a year. He previously held those positions before Lee was hired, and has also acted as interim president of the U twice in the past.

Pershing will remain president of the U until a new president is chosen, at which point he said he will return to a faculty position.

Pershing was originally hired as an assistant professor in 1977 teaching chemical engineering. He was later appointed dean of the College of Engineering and senior vice president for academic affairs. When he was chosen as president of the U, he was the first internal hire for the position in almost 30 years. He was hired about 10 months after his successor left the U, supporting the Board’s statements that finding his successor will likely take a year.

“The selection of this committee has been thoughtful and deliberate, with each member having a significant connection to the institution and a strong interest in the future success of the U,” said Board of Regents Chair Daniel w. Campbell in a statement. “This committee will play a critical role in the search for the U’s next president, and we appreciate the willingness of these committee members to lend their expertise and time to this important process.”

The committee will announce the dates of their meetings for public input late this summer.

[email protected]