SEATTLE -- More than a fundraiser. More than a politician. More than an academic leader. That's how members of the University of Washington Board of Regents described on Monday their choice of University of Utah President Michael Young as the next leader for the university.
Young, 61, who has been president of the University of Utah since 2004, will be offered the UW job by Board of Regents chair Herb Simon, who is authorized to negotiate his contract. Young was chosen to replace previous UW president Mark Emmert, who left in September to take a job as president of the NCAA.
Emmert was UW president for about six years. He was the country's second highest paid public university president, behind E. Gordon Gee, of Ohio State University. If Emmert had stayed at UW, he would have made more than $900,000 this year. Young's total compensation at Utah was $723,595. Young's potential salary at UW hasn't been made public.
"We have selected one of the most outstanding university administrators in the country," said Costco CEO Jeff Brotman, who is a member of the UW Board of Regents.
Brotman added that Young has done a great job of balancing the diverse interests in Utah, while making everyone like him.
"He does not have what I call 'big shot-itis' even though he is a big shot," Brotman said. "Running the University of Utah is, I expect, like standing on a razor blade. He did a masterful job of navigating very dangerous waters down there."
Brotman added that he thinks the political climate in Washington will be easier to navigate.
Student Regent Frances J. Youn, a UW graduate student, agreed. Youn did not get to vote on Young, but served on the search committee and talked to Utah students during the process.
"There was a real authentic affection for him," Youn said. Utah students told her Young understands the importance of making sure students feel they have a unique experience in college and they appreciated his open-door policy.
Young faces big challenges from day one. State funding for higher education is again being slashed this year. In 2007, the state's two-year budget included $732 million for UW. The governor's proposed 2009-11 budget includes $451 million, while giving colleges more flexibility to increase tuition.
"I think all of us are losing sleep about the fact that the state is dramatically retreating from its central public obligation to fund higher education," said Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle). "There is no question about that, and the only question today is that as that occurs, can we do it with some grace and some thought and some respect for students."
Carlyle said the next President will have to deal with rising tuitions and the need to keep the institution affordable for the middle class. Carlyle hopes Young will also encourage finding new efficiencies to better use state funding. Many faculty members are also concerned that in light of decreasing state support, the UW's reputation could suffer, hurting the ability to recruit top talent.
During Young's tenure at Utah, the university's annual budget has grown from $1.6 billion to $2.6 billion; the university joined the Pac-12 athletic conference and a Utah professor was a co-winner of the Nobel Prize.
The University of Utah leads the nation in spinoff companies generated from campus research, totaling 102 over the past five years. Private donations to the university grew from $130 million to $165 million a year during his tenure.
Before his job in Utah, he was dean of the George Washington University Law School as well as a law professor. He also served 20 years on the faculty at Columbia University and worked with the first President Bush.
UW Professor James W. Harrington, who is chair of the Faculty Senate, said Young's academic credentials will please the university faculty and he expects they will learn to appreciate his collaborative approach to solving problems, as a good listener who consults with everyone before making a decision.
Sally Jewell, CEO of Recreational Equipment, Inc., and a member of the board and the search committee said Young stood out from among an exceptional pool of top candidates.