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University Of Utah Unexpectedly Removes Director Of Huntsman Cancer Institute

Erik Neumann

University of Utah leaders removed Mary Beckerle on Monday from her post as head of the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Dr. Vivian Lee, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and university President David Pershing, explained in a letter that Beckerle would no longer serve as CEO and Director of the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The renowned cell biologist held the position for eleven years.

The letter offered little explanation, but stated “This change has occurred after very careful consideration and with the full support of the University of Utah President and the senior leadership of the University of Utah Board of Trustees.”

Among those confused was Jon Huntsman Sr., the founder and Chairman of the cancer institute, whose foundation has raised or donated almost $2 billion.

"All of a sudden Dr. Lee just up and fires her with an email without telling anybody why, without calling us, without the president of the university notifying us," Huntsman said. 

Susan Sheehan is the president of the Huntsman Foundation. She says she was also blindsided by the decision and doesn’t see a valid reason for Beckerle’s dismissal.

"She’s highly respected, very beloved. There has been no objective measure that I have seen in terms of any of the evaluations that would indicate that there was a performance issue there," Sheehan said. 

The move caused faculty members to write an open letter and online petition to reinstate Beckerle, a stance shared by the Huntsman family. A person from Beckerle’s family and representatives from the University of Utah Health Sciences declined to comment for this story.

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