Leaving Utah for Washington, Michael Young says Mormonism taught him to embrace diversity

Former U. leader is among 3 LDS heads of public colleges

Published: Monday, June 13 2011 10:00 p.m. MDT

"I used to watch my father who owned a supermarket and it always struck me that he performed a public service. We always think of a public service as doing something charitable for free, and that is good, but what my father did was create a business that hired people, put food on peoples' tables and performed a really valuable service to the community," Young said. Though different, Young believes universities can do the same.

These lessons inspired Young to turn Utah into a top school for licensing revenue and patent activity, tying MIT in 2008 and beating Harvard, in the creation of new companies (20).

Yet, according to Wayne Watkins, the past president of the University Economic Development Association, "university spinoff companies are just one of several important factors in how universities create wealth and jobs in a community." Watkins indicated that perhaps more important than creating spinoffs at Washington, will be Young's ability to break down the barriers between higher education and the business community.

"Bridging the boundaries between the institution and the community, including business and governmental institutions, will be critical to driving innovation and economic development in Washington."

But, Washington shouldn't be worried, Watkins went on to praise Young's track record of breaking down barriers at Utah, having engineering, technology, business, and law work collaboratively to help drive innovation.

Young made it clear he plans to do the same in Washington by reinforcing bridges between Seattle-based businesses and university research, "Seattle sits in a very high tech community with biotechnology and so forth. Deepening the connections and linkages there could be very exciting." He continued, "Particularly now in academic institutions the need for collaborative work is just profound."

"Michael Young is a proven leader and he will take the assets and resources in Washington's unique community and realign them in ways that benefit their community, just as he did in Salt Lake City," said Watkins.

Like Watkins, Rawlins expressed confidence in Young's abilities. Rawlins, who left the state in 2009, warned, "Washington is going through some very tough times, and it will take a very skilled administrator." But he added optimistically, "Young will do a terrific job."

EMAIL: hboyd@desnews.com

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