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Jordan Allred, Deseret News
A 24-member committee will conduct the search for the next president of the University of Utah. The Utah State Board of Regents announced the committee members names Thursday.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Regents announced Thursday a 24-member committee that will conduct a nationwide search for the next president of the University of Utah.

On May 1, U. President David Pershing announced he would step down as president and return to a faculty position once his successor is appointed by the board of regents.

Pershing had previously confided to Utah Commissioner of Higher Education David Buhler and U. board of trustees Chairman H. David Burton of his plans to retire, but he moved up the timetable in the aftermath of a power play for control of the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

The ordeal started with top administrators' sudden firing of Mary Beckerle, the cancer institute's director and CEO, which was met by the protests of benefactor Jon M. Huntsman Sr., the cancer institute staff, health sciences faculty as well as cancer patients themselves.

Beckerle was quickly reinstated, which was followed by Dr. Vivian Lee, the U.'s senior vice president of health sciences, resigning from her administrative position.

The search committee will be led by Harris H. Simmons, vice chairman of the board of regents, and Burton.

The search committee includes regents, trustees, university faculty, staff, students, administrators, alumni and community members.

Dr. Kathleen Cooney, chairwoman of the Department of Internal Medicine in the School of Medicine, has been named to the committee. She was named interim director of the Huntsman Cancer Institute during Beckerle's brief ouster.

Board of regents Chairman Daniel Campbell, in a statement, said the U., as the state's flagship institution, "is increasingly recognized nationally and internationally for its cutting-edge research and quality of educational programs. The selection of this committee has been thoughtful and deliberate, with each member having a significant connection to the institution and a strong interest in the future success of the U.

“This committee will play a critical role in the search for the U.’s next president, and we appreciate the willingness of these committee members to lend their expertise and time to this important process.”

Search committee members include regents Simmons, Campbell, Patricia Jones and Robert S. Marquardt.

The university trustees members include Burton, Phil Clinger, Christian Gardner and U. Student Body President Zach Berger.

University administration, faculty and staff: Cooney; Cynthia Berg, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science; Richard Brown, dean of the College of Engineering; Academic Senate President Margaret Clayton, associate professor in the College of Nursing; Sarah George, executive director of the Natural History Museum of Utah; Jeff Herring, chief human resource officer; Uri Loewenstein, professor of finance in the David Eccles School of Business; Ana Maria Lopez, associate vice president for Equity and Inclusion, U. Health Sciences; Jennifer McConnell, president, Utah Staff Council; Nicole Robinson, assistant vice president for Equity and Diversity; Wes Sundquist, Department of Biochemistry chairman, School of Medicine; and Monica Vetter, interim associate vice president for Research, U. Health Sciences.

Community/alumni representatives: Julie Barrett, immediate past president, Alumni Association; Lisa Eccles, president and COO of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation; Jim Olson, president of Vivint Smart Home Arena; and Janice Ugaki, CEO and founder of Firmseek.

The search committee will hold public meetings to obtain input from members of the university community and the general public on the presidential search.

Following that outreach, the committee will approve a position announcement and call for nominations and applications. The committee will then screen applications and conduct interviews with top candidates. After deliberating, the committee will recommend three to five finalists to the board of regents, which has statutory authority to hire college and university presidents of the state's public institutions.