Long-time Utah Valley University advocate and former president Wilson W. Sorensen died of natural causes Thursday evening, days before his 93rd birthday on Aug. 8.
"Utah Valley University was his life," Kent Sorensen said of his father. "He had a deep passion for Utah Valley and he loved being involved in training students and serving the community."
Sorensen, who passed away at 10:30 p.m. with his son at his side, served the institution from 1941 to 1982, and he was acting director and president beginning in 1946. During his 36-year tenure, the institution was known as Central Utah Vocational School, Utah Trade Technical Institute and Utah Technical College at Provo. Sorensen was instrumental in moving the school from the fairgrounds campus to the Provo campus and then to UVU's current Orem campus.
When he was first named president of the institution, UVU was a small vocational school with 764 students. By the end of his presidency in 1982, enrollment had spiked to 5,593 and the fundamentals were in place for the institution to become a community college, state college and eventually a regional teaching university.
"The community and UVU family owe much to Wilson Sorensen, who was a pioneer for this institution in the strictest sense of the word," said Matt Holland, current UVU president. "Leaders of his caliber are rare, and we ought to celebrate all that Wilson Sorensen did for UVU and Utah Valley. He will be missed."
During the past year, Sorensen saw the institution attain university status and become Utah's second-largest public university with an enrollment of nearly 27,000.
The Sorensen Student Center, named in his honor, stands at the center of the growing Orem campus and was occupied during campus expansion and as one of the first buildings on the Orem campus.
J. Marvin Higbee succeeded Sorensen and served as president between 1982 and 1987. It was under Higbee's watch that UTC became UVSC. He praised Sorensen not only for his remarkable tenure of service, but also for his strong character and commitment to higher education.
"Wilson was one of the real icons in Utah's higher education, and he was a kind man who always had the desire to do good," said Higbee. "His contributions to UVU are innumerable. His nearly four decades as president alone are testament to his effectiveness as a leader."