It's a larger school in a bigger state with a heftier budget and some greater challenges.
But University of Washington leaders believe University of Utah President Michael Young is up to the task of leading their school.
"We feel this is a job he's ready for," said Herb Simon, chairman of the University of Washington (UW) Board of Regents, noting that the university is facing major cuts from that state's legislature. "It takes a leader that understands how to deal with these issues, and we feel his accomplishments have made him ready for this job."
UW regents unanimously selected Young, 61, on Monday to lead the university. The job at the nation's second-largest research institution with 48,000 students and a $4 billion operating budget is a major promotion for Young, who has led Utah's flagship research university for seven years.
The specific terms of Young's employment have yet to be negotiated, and those terms must be approved by the board, but he will likely start his new job on July 1.
"I'm tremendously honored that they would trust me with that university," Young said in an interview. "It's one of the greatest public universities in the nation and the world. It's well-poised to be a leader among the research universities in the 21st century."
Gov. Gary Herbert said Monday, in a statement, that Washington's gain is Utah's loss.
"With Mike at the helm, the University of Utah became more than just a new Pac-12 contender on the playing field; it is a national champion in the classroom and in the laboratory," Herbert said.
David Jordan, chair of the Utah Board of Regents, said Monday the Regents had not yet selected an interim president, but he anticipates that decision will be made in the next few days. One source has said Lorris Betz, the senior vice president for health sciences, will likely be tapped to serve while a yearlong national search is conducted to hire a permanent successor. Betz said Monday he wasn't aware of any such decision but has indicated that he'd be willing to postpone his impending retirement if he's asked to serve.
Both Jordan and Betz said Young has moved the U. forward.
"It's more respected today than it was when he took over as president, and it was well-respected then," Jordan said. "He's an extremely hard worker and has been tireless in his efforts to advance the university."
The UW announcement Monday followed months of secrecy about the search and a Seattle Times article Friday night that reported, citing anonymous Washington sources, that Young would win the job.
Previous Washington President Mark Emmert's sudden departure last spring to lead the NCAA created an opening for the most high-profile higher education post in the Pacific Northwest. Young did not apply for it, he said, but was instead approached by Washington's search committee in November.
"I've been very happy here in Utah, and I think if this opportunity hadn't arisen I would have been thrilled to stay here as many more years as they would have had me," Young said.
Young agreed to speak with the committee and was later formally interviewed for the job. Due to Washington's secret presidential selection process, Young only learned recently that he was a finalist. Young was one of three finalists, Simon said.
Under Young's watch, the U. has "truly flourished," according to U. trustees chairman Randy Dryer.
During Young's seven-year tenure, the U. raised $1 billion toward the $1.2-billion goal of an ongoing eight-year capital campaign, while annual private giving rose from $130 million to $165 million. Research funding steadily climbed and the university has completed or begun building projects totalling nearly 2 million square feet. Eight-five percent of the $1.1 billion cost has come from non-state sources.
The U. has emerged as a leader in technology commercialization, according to Dryer, spinning off more than 100 companies since Young broke off a new division called the Technology Ventures Development Office. The University of Utah overtook the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009 to become America's No. 1 research institution when it came to creating startup companies based on university technology, based on rankings compiled by the Association of University Technology Managers.
Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, said Young has been an asset to the state's business community, noting that he helped implement the state's Utah Science Technology And Research or USTAR initiative. Young "did so in such an incredible way, with all the right people in the right positions to drive the University of Utah to be No. 1 in the nation in the transferability of science into technology and keeping them local."
Dryer said, "Regardless of how you measure success, Mike has been extraordinary.
"Our fundraising has never been higher, which is amazing in a depressed economy," Dryer said. "The research dollars the university is generating are setting records. He's raised the quality of faculty and the admissions standards."
Dryer was careful to also credit senior U. administrators, but he praised Young's willingness to empower these officials with a collaborative management style.
Young spent some of his formative years in Japan, where he served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and taught.
"That affected my leadership style," he said. "Japan is a remarkably collaborative culture. I learned you come up with much better ideas and people who are much more deeply engaged."
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, a member of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and former Senate president, said he's worked with a number of university leaders over the years. He said there had been some tension between lawmakers and university leaders in the past, but Young has had one of the best relationships with lawmakers "for quite some time."
"Mike seemed to look at it as a relationship of partnership rather than an adversarial [relationship]," Valentine said. He said Young "brought a sophistication and a vision to the U. that had not been seen with some of his predecessors."
Young left his post as law school dean at George Washington University in 2004 to succeed Bernie Machen as U. president. The California native graduated from Brigham Young University in 1973 and went to Harvard for law school.
He taught law at Columbia University for two decades before his administrative career, but he has continued to lead law school classes in international trade and environmental policy.
"I'm dressed in dean's clothing from time to time and orchestrate the faculty, but at the end of the day I'm just a professor," he said. "I love universities because in my heart I love the role of professor."
Among his greatest influences, Young cited the late BYU political science professor Richard Beal.
"At college I was happily sitting in the back row of classes, memorizing things, figuring out how I could ski four days a week. I was called out by one of my professors. I was terrified, frankly," he said.
Beal invited Young to participate in a research project and that experience shaped his outlook as an academic.
"It put me in the orbit of these people where no one was satisfied with the notion that you memorize something and repeat it back," he said. "It moved me to realization that I would be interested in teaching."
How much do university presidents make?
The terms of Michael Young's employment are still being negotiated, but former University of Washington President Mark Emmert made nearly $700,000 last school year. That figure would have topped $900,000, but because he left before his contract was up, he forfeited more than $200,000 in deferred compensation, according to a UW spokesman.
At the U., Young earns a base pay of $348,000, but his package in 2009-10 was worth $724,000 when including deferred compensation, according to a recent analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Other highlights • What else was accomplished during Young's leadership. > A4
What's next in the University of Utah's search?
It will now be up to the Utah Board of Regents chair to appoint a search committee made up of regents, university trustees, faculty, administration, and community and student representatives to find the next U. president. The regents will make the final decision.
David Jordan, chair of the board, said he's optimistic the U. will attract high-quality candidates.
"Certainly we've seen some cuts to higher education budgets over the last few years in difficult economic times, but nothing on the order of the cuts being experienced in some other states," Jordan said. "We ought to credit the Legislature and governor that here in Utah we don't labor under the burden of those overwhelming deficits, and that, I think, is going to be a significant factor in attracting the next president to Utah."