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Ruth Watkins Named New University Of Utah President, First Woman To Serve

University of Utah
Dr. Ruth Watkins will be the 16th, and first female, president of the University of Utah.

Dr. Ruth Watkins has been named the new president of the University of Utah. Watkins has been serving as the Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and will be the university’s first female president in its 168-year history.

The announcement came during a public vote from Utah's Board of Regents on Thursday night. Before the vote was even finished, the crowd was on their feet applauding.

“We appreciate the enthusiasm, but we should probably make this official," said Dan Campbell, chairman of the Board of Regents.

Watkins was chosen from three finalists. Her face was the most familiar among the candidates, having worked at the U since 2013 when she was named the university’s provost.

“I look forward to the opportunity to work with many of the same people I have been working with over the past four years and that helps a lot," Watkins said.

Watkins will officially replace current president David Pershing this spring.

Pershing announced he would be stepping down last year following a controversial firing in April. The head of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, which is based at the university, was removed and then promptly reinstated following public backlash.

Watkins will begin her tenure with expectations of greater transparency and clearer communication for the university community.


Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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