Ruth V. Watkins is about to make history. On Thursday, 18 January 2018, the Utah State Board of Regents unanimously voted her as the 16th president of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah. Not only will she begin her presidency in the spring, but she also has the distinct honor of being named the university’s first female president in the school’s 168-year history.
Watkins will succeed university president David Pershing who is retiring after a five-year term. He will remain in the position throughout the upcoming legislative session and afterwards remain at the university as a chemical engineering professor.
Daniel W. Campbell, chairman of the Board of Regents, told the St George News, “Dr. Watkins brings both an outside perspective based on years of leadership experience at the University of Illinois as well as significant familiarity with the University of Utah where she has served as senior vice president [for academic affairs] and provost since [August] 2013.” He continued, “She is a collaborative leader who is committed to ensuring exceptional educational and research opportunities for students and faculty. She also is widely respected by our community partners. Dr. Watkins’ vision and dedication will ensure the U excels in the years ahead.”
On 12 January 2018, it was announced that Dr. Watkins had been chosen as one of three finalists from a pool of national candidates by a 25-member presidential search committee. David L. Bauer, Commissioner of Higher Education, said, “In all measures, Dr. Watkins rose to the top in our national search for the next president to lead the U. She is a superb and energetic administrator and a proven fundraiser who understands our community and will be able to continue the momentum of our flagship university.”
Dr. Watkins remarked, “I am deeply honored to have this opportunity to lead the University of Utah and offer my thanks to the Board of Regents, the university’s board of trustees and the search committee for their confidence in me. The University of Utah plays a vital role in the state, and increasingly the nation, in path-breaking research that solves societal challenges and educational opportunities that transform lives. My goal is to ensure that we continue and accelerate this trajectory in the years ahead.”