A search committee has selected 11 candidates to interview for president of the University of Utah.

According to the university’s website, “the breadth and depth of the pool of applicants was outstanding and included an impressive group of candidates from diverse backgrounds and having many strengths.”

Following the upcoming interviews, the committee will forward up to five finalists to the Utah Board of Higher Education for consideration. The board selects the presidents of Utah’s public degree-granting colleges and universities and technical colleges.

The successful candidate will succeed Ruth V. Watkins, who stepped down in April. Watkins was the first woman selected president in the U.’s 168-year history.

University of Utah President Ruth Watkins moving on after 3 years

Watkins’ signature initiatives focused on student access, student success and degree completion. During Watkins’ helm, the U. was admitted to the prestigious Association of American Universities.

Other top priorities included diversity, student mental health, and wellness and safety.

Many of the safety reforms on campus were implemented following the killing of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey, who was fatally shot outside her dorm in 2018 by a man she had dated. McCluskey’s parents sued the university and in November reached a $13.5 million settlement of their two lawsuits.

What really happened to Lauren McCluskey? The inside story of her tragic death

Watkins, named the U’s 16th president in 2018, left the university after accepting the position of president of Strada Impact. Strada, which is based in Indianapolis, is a national social impact organization dedicated to strengthening the pathways between education and employment.

Dr. Michael Good was selected interim president but is not seeking the presidency, he confirmed during an interview with the Deseret News this week.

Good is also CEO of University of Utah Health and executive dean of the School of Medicine.

“I’m passionate about health care. In talking with President Watkins and Christian Gardner (chairman of the U. board of trustees), for a variety of reasons, it was good for me to be the interim. I want to be running the health system and so I’ll call it my temp job,” Good said.

Dr. Michael L. Good, interim president of the University of Utah and CEO of University of Utah Health, answers a question during an interview inside the Eccles Health Sciences Education Building at the University of Utah on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. The University of Utah is announcing a landmark gift to its School of Medicine. The gift of $110 million from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation marks the largest gift ever made by the Eccles family to the university. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Good said he joined the university about three years ago and “I’m just really kind of getting started here,” he said

The past year was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Good said Utah’s health, government and business sectors collaborated to manage the state’s response.

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“We all came together. For health systems that normally compete, we were, for a while, on daily conference calls, weekly conference calls. We load balanced. So the camaraderie, the coming together that happened in the state, I think is one of the reasons we are where we are today. I think it bodes well for the future,” he said.

As announced on Wednesday, the university received a $110 million gift from two Eccles family foundations, $30 million of which will be used to build a new School of Medicine facility to be named for benefactor Spencer Fox Eccles. It is anticipated that the groundbreaking for the building will be this fall.

University of Utah School of Medicine gets ‘transformational’ $110 million gift from Eccles foundations

The remainder of the gift will be used as an endowment for student scholarships, faculty recruitment and cardiovascular research. The gift was “historic” and “transformational,” Good said.

“It will take a really strong medical school and propel us forward on to the national spotlight even more than we already are,” he said.

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