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Kumble R. Subbaswamy (left) and David W. Pershing (right) are the two finalists in the search for a new president of the University of Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY — Two finalists have been selected in the search for a new president for the University of Utah.

The State Board of Regents announced Tuesday that the seven-month search has come down to David W. Pershing, senior vice president for academic affairs at the U., and Kumble Subbaswamy, a provost at the University of Kentucky.

The two finalists share a history of leadership in various aspects of academia, with Pershing starting at the U. in 1977, as an assistant professor in chemical engineering. He advanced to various positions from there, earning multiple awards and grants along the way. He has served in his current position since 1998.

Subbaswamy joined Kentucky's faculty in 1978 and served as a dean and chairman of various departments, leaving the Lexington, Ky., university in 1997 for positions at the University of Miami and Indiana University, and returning to UK, which is also a top-rated public research institution, in 2006.

He has applied for and been turned down for top jobs at the University of Illinois in 2010, and at Iowa State University earlier this year, according to the Kentucky Kernel newspaper. As provost, Subbaswamy is UK's chief academic officer.

Both men were called "highly qualified candidates" by U. presidential search committee chairman and Regent Nolan Karras. The 20-member committee, made up of regents, U. trustees, U. faculty and staff as well as community members, began accepting nominations and applications in June.

More than 80 potential candidates were considered in an in-depth screening process that started when former U. President Michael Young took a job as president of University of Washington in April.

The committee submitted four names to the Regents, but two dropped out of the running knowing their names would be made public.

Not considered for the position was applicant Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who called the process "very close-minded." He said, "the president of a university has to be a leader in the community, someone who can inspire students to go into higher education, and someone to represent them. For the flagship university in the state of Utah, it needs to be someone who has a well-known public persona and is respected, someone who already has great business ties and great legislative ties."

"I want the U. to succeed, I really do," Shurtleff said, adding that he would have been a great asset to the school as a fund-raiser, something he's done professionally for years.

"It's their call, and I respect what they do," he said. "I wish them the best."

UK President Eli Capilouto called the U. "an outstanding public research institution. It's no surprise they have attracted someone the caliber of Provost Subbaswamy as a finalist for the presidency."

Subbaswamy received a bachelor's degree in physics from Bangalore University in India, a master's in physics from Delhi University, also in India, and a Ph.D in physics from Indiana University. He became citizen of the United States in 1986. He has published more than 60 research articles and has been active in promoting life sciences-related economic development efforts, both in Indiana and Kentucky.

Pershing graduated in chemical engineering from Purdue University and received a doctorate in the same field from the University of Arizona. His resume includes more than 80 peer-reviewed publications, 20 research grants and five patents to his credit.

As an ongoing part of the selection process, the search committee is accepting public input regarding the finalists. Any commentary can be e-mailed to [email protected]

The two finalists will meet privately with members of the U. community on Thursday and the entire Board of Regents will interview each finalist in a closed meeting Friday, before voting on whether they will be making a decision that day or at a subsequent meeting.

Contributing: Molly Farmer

E-mail: [email protected]

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