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Exodus of senior leaders at University of Utah not a problem, campus officials say

Published: Wednesday, April 27 2011 6:35 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — President Michael Young's departure for the University of Washington is only the latest to be announced among senior administrators at the University of Utah.

Also leaving are:

• Paul Brinkman, associate vice president for budget and planning, retiring after 20 years of service.

• Steve Hess, chief information officer since 1999, leaving to serve a mission for the LDS Church.

• Brian Cummings, director of the technology commercialization office who spearheaded the U.'s highly-touted efforts to spin off companies from research, leaving for a similar job at Ohio State University.

• Lorris Betz, senior vice president for health sciences and CEO of University of Utah Health Care. He was due to retire this year after overseeing explosive growth on the U.'s upper campus over the past decade. However, sources at the U. say he is expected to be named interim president during the national search for Young's replacement. Betz filled that role in 2004 after former president Bernie Machen left for the University of Florida.

Meanwhile, U. trustee Jim Wall, former publisher of the Deseret News, is leaving to serve an LDS Church mission in Louisiana.

But U. officials say those farewells do not add up to a vacuum in leadership, in part because many replacements have already been made internally and the search to replace Betz is wrapping up.

"There's no question that many people changing will cause some disruption," said David Pershing, senior vice president for academic affairs. "We believe while we're losing many years of amazing talent, we're also bringing in new skilled people."

Changes in a higher education administration are not uncommon, he said, calling the number of departures a coincidence. "It's not a cause and effect thing."

Young's seven-year tenure as president was actually longer than the national average.

"For so many years, nothing changed. That's remarkable in a way," Brinkman said. "We're losing lots of experience, but we're getting new people in with new perspectives."

Robert Newman, the U.'s humanities dean, said he was confident the U. would move forward "without a hiccup."

"We have an excellent leadership team in place for the transition, and I fully expect we’ll attract a very strong pool in the presidential search," he said.

E-mail: pkoepp@desnews.com

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