Utah System of Higher Education
Utah Commissioner of Higher Education David Buhler. Buhler announced Monday he will retire as commissioner at the end of 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Commissioner of Higher Education David Buhler announced Tuesday he will retire from the position at the end of 2019, and return to teaching at the University of Utah.

Buhler, in a statement, said serving as commissioner has been "the professional opportunity of a lifetime."

Buhler informed the Utah State Board of Regents of his decision to step down late last week. A national search for his successor will be launched in the spring.

"After more than 19 years in the Utah System of Higher Education, over seven of those as commissioner, my family and I concluded it’s time to begin a new chapter in our lives. I believe change is good for organizations and individuals, and I am looking forward to returning to teaching at the University of Utah in 2020. It was important to me to share my decision as soon as possible,” he said.

Before stepping down, Buhler will guide the system through the legislative session, seeking support and funding for the system's priorities, which include placing a college access adviser in every high school.

“Utah has an opportunity to be the first state in the nation to place a college access adviser in every high school to help more students reach their higher education goals. By repurposing funds, we will increase the number of high schools with these access advisers this year from 12 to 33. If the Legislature funds the initiative this session, there will be a college access adviser for every Utah high school within three years," he said.

Buhler said he is also committed to participating in the state’s Higher Education Strategic Planning Commission, expected to complete its work in November 2019.

He was named Utah’s eighth commissioner of higher education in June 2012, after serving as an associate commissioner for 12 years.

Buhler taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Utah from 1990 to 2006, and served in the Utah Legislature as a state senator from 1995 to 1999. He also was a Salt Lake City Council member from 2000 to 2008.

A Salt Lake City native, Buhler earned a doctorate in political science from the U. He and his wife, Lori, are the parents of five children and have two grandchildren.

Regents Chairman Harris H. Simmons thanked "Buhler for his superb service to Utah higher education. Under his leadership, the board adopted a strategic plan in 2016, which articulated our priorities of affordable access, timely completion, research and workforce, and growth and capacity."

Simmons noted that Buhler has overseen 10 presidential searches during his tenure as commissioner, four in the past year alone.

"We appreciate Commissioner Buhler’s thoughtfulness in providing us sufficient time to conduct a thorough search for his successor after the conclusion of the legislative session and to allow for a smooth transition. We look forward to continuing to work closely with him between now and December," Simmons said in a statement.

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U. President Ruth V. Watkins said it has been “a privilege to work with Commissioner Buhler. His constant focus has been on the advancement of individuals and our state through increasing access to higher education, and working closely with both regents and presidents to identify and implement strategies that increase completion. His work as a higher education leader has improved individual lives and advanced the collective good.”

Matthew S. Holland, former Utah Valley University president, said Buhler "is a public servant who leaves a tremendous mark.”

Buhler serves on the executive committees of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education and the board of the National Association of System Heads.