Logan • More than six months after outgoing President Noelle Cockett announced her resignation, Utah State University will soon have a new leader.
Elizabeth “Betsy” Cantwell was announced as the new Utah State president during a Utah Board of Higher Education meeting late Friday. The board held a brief meeting and unanimously voted for Cantwell to lead the university. She will officially start this summer when Cockett’s resignation goes into effect.
The new president was on hand in Logan to celebrate the new gig, and Cantwell walked into a ballroom at the Taggart Student Center to a round of applause.
“I’m enormously grateful to the board for their faith in me,” Cantwell said on stage moments after being voted in. “I will do everything in my power to step into a place that has basically made beautiful by President Cockett, and move us all forward into what is truly an incredible future for Utah State University and for the state of Utah.”
The announcement Friday afternoon came after an hours-long closed session earlier in the day. An agenda from the Board of Higher Education shows the board was scheduled to meet and interview the finalists from 7:30 a.m. to around 4:30 p.m., when the announcement was made.
Cantwell will take over for Cockett, who was appointed USU president in 2017. During her six years at the helm in Logan, the university has seen multiple lawsuits regarding sexual misconduct on campus, including harassment within USU’s piano department, the treatment of a former football player who recorded a coach and police chief speaking on sexual assault and the failure to address sexual violence on campus.
Cantwell currently serves as the University of Arizona’s Senior Vice President for Research & Innovation, according to her biography published by USU. Some of her responsibilities include overseeing the university’s UA Tech Park, a large research park in Tuscon that contributes $1.7 billion to the local economy.
Lisa Michele Church, chair of the Utah Board of Higher Education, told The Tribune that the board was initially impressed with Cantwell’s past experience in the fields of science and technology, which she believes will add to the strong research and innovation already happening at Utah State.
“The second thing that we were impressed with and we really care about is seeing that statewide mission of the land grant school fulfilled, and she has been familiar with that at U of A,” Church said Friday. “So it’ll be really exciting to see what she can do with every single corner of the state serving rural Utah.”