Rich Kendell, Utah's commissioner of Higher Education, stepped down this past week. Officially, it's a retirement, if only from the grind of his regular duties. Knowing Kendell, he'll carry on as an enthusiastic advocate of public and higher education.

He can't help himself. He has almost an evangelical zeal for encouraging people to prepare for post-secondary education, participate fully in the experience and to graduate. Retirement, however, enables him to conduct this outreach on his own terms. Kendell also plans to spend more time with family and travel.

Kendell, 64, has been a trusted adviser to governors. He's worked in the private sector as a project manager for the Boyer Co. and a director of research and development for WICAT Systems. Those experiences, no doubt, helped shape his view of workplace needs.

But he is foremost known as an educator and administrator. Kendell got his start as an English teacher at Ogden High School. He's been a university professor. He's worked as a research and planning analyst for state higher education and was superintendent of the Davis School District.

It is no surprise, then, that in his "retirement" Kendell will return to the classroom as a Board of Regents professor. He will take part in upcoming courses, lectures and class work at the University of Utah, Southern Utah University and Weber State University. It's a natural fit for Kendell, who during his four years as the state's higher education leader was a key mover behind the K-16 Alliance, which connects public and higher education in a more seamless manner.

One of Kendell's greatest gifts is to meet people where they are, whether lobbying legislative leaders for funding for a higher education initiative or encouraging a young man in a chance meeting to enroll in college as a first step in making his career dreams come true.

Kendell, in accepting the commissioner's position four years ago, promised to lead with his "heart" and to be a strong advocate for higher education. Utahns got that and so much more from a career educator and administrator known for his keen intellect, quick wit and affable personal style. We thank him for his service and his lifelong commitment to the education of Utah students from kindergarten through graduate school.