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FILE - Joe Peterson, first chancellor of Utah State University-College of Eastern Utah

PRICE — The first chancellor of Utah State University-Eastern is retiring, the college announced Thursday.

Chancellor Joe Peterson aided the school during its transition period when USU merged with the College of Eastern Utah in 2010, USU President Noelle Cockett said in a news release.

“Dr. Peterson worked tirelessly to lead that transition and help us navigate the many complexities of the merger,” Cockett said.

After serving for eight years as chancellor, Peterson will retire at the end of June. Gary Straquadine, the university's current senior administrator, will then step in as the interim chancellor, the college reported.

“I have cherished my associations with colleagues and friends within the University and within the communities of Southeast Utah,” Peterson said in a news release. “Serving as chancellor has been the highlight of my career.”

According to the statement from the college, USU-Eastern's Price and Blanding facilities improved greatly during Peterson's tenure, and he oversaw the construction of a large classroom building and the remodel of the Geary Event Center.

Peterson also was instrumental in expanding student housing on the Blanding Campus, school officials said.

Academic programs flourished under his leadership, with growth in the number of students completing their programs and degrees as well as growth in students' demand for technical degrees, school officials added.

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Straquadine now serves as vice chancellor for academic advancement at USU-Eastern, and he is a vice provost at USU, in addition to serving as the school's senior administrator.

He already knows the campuses well and "has been responsible for program design and development for USU in southeast Utah," school officials said.

“Dr. Straquadine’s experience and expertise will allow for continued innovation in the delivery of the highest quality academic programs for southeast Utah,” Cockett added.