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In something of a surprise, Stanford Cazier, 61, president of Utah State University for the past 13 years, announced this week that he plans to retire as USU president in another year and go back to his first academic love - teaching history.

The decision can only be greeted with deep regret on the USU campus and elsewhere since Cazier has been a marvelous and highly-respected leader of Utah's second largest university. No one could argue with the assessment by the Utah commissioner of higher education that Cazier has served "with distinction."In disclosing his plans to resign, Cazier becomes the fifth of Utah's nine public college presidents to announce the leaving of office in the past two years. The state Board of Regents will organize a search committee in the next few weeks to seek a replacement for Cazier.

Such a committee already is working on a replacement for Chase N. Peterson, who will retire June 30 as president of the University of Utah. The regents already have found new presidents for Weber State University, Salt Lake Community College and Snow College.

Clearly, the face of leadership in Utah higher education is taking on a whole new look.

Cazier said he is leaving the USU post because after 13 years, it's time to let someone else have a chance. It's no secret that the USU president, who is known as a scholar and avid reader, would find great personal satisfaction at being in the classroom once more as a teacher.

Cazier has been a staunch defender and advocate of USU, traveling constantly to promote the school's interests and tirelessly making known his conviction that the Logan-based institution "is a finer university than most people in Utah realize."

Certainly, much of what the school has become can be attributed to Cazier's leadership since he took office in June 1979. During his tenure, enrollment has grown by 50 percent; private giving for scholarships, facilities and programs has increased three-fold; several new buildings have been constructed on campus; new distance-learning programs have been started to teach classes at sites scattered throughout Utah and a number of new on-campus education programs have been implemented.

A full year will pass before Cazier steps down, but the adding up of his accomplishments already has begun. And it is clear that all of Utah, as well as USU, owes him a debt of gratitude for outstanding performance, dedication and leadership.