University of Utah Presidents

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The University of Utah Presidents includes all sixteen men who served as president of the University of Utah or its predecessor the University of Deseret, which was founded in 1850[1] just a few years after the Mormon Pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.

List of Presidents[edit]

According to the university's official count the current president, David W. Pershing, is the 15th president of the University.[2] The university only counts the presidents that have served since the name was officially changed to the University of Utah, starting with John R. Park. The count also only counts the presidents, not the actual terms, because Joseph T. Kingsbury was president two different times.

University of Utah Presidents: Tenure Bio
Orson Spencer.jpg Orson Spencer 1850–1852 Orson Spencer was named as the first chancellor of the University of Deseret when it was created on February 28, 1850.[1] His tenure only lasted a short time until the university was temporarily closed.
NONE 1852–1867 The University of Deseret was suspended for fifteen years due to the lack of funds and "feeder" schools.[3]
David O. Calder.jpg David O. Calder 1867-1869[3] David O. Calder was a Mormon Pioneer from Scotland who was assigned by Brigham Young to re-open the University after its fifteen-year closure.
John R. Park 1869–1892 John R. Park is the longest tenured president in the history of the University of Utah, serving for 23 years. At the end of his tenure the name of the university was changed to The University of Utah and planning began to move the campus to the east bench of Salt Lake City. Upon his death in 1900, Dr. John R. Park bequeathed his entire fortune, plus his library, to the University of Utah.[4]
Joseph T. Kingsbury 1892-1894[3] Joseph T. Kingsbury became the first president of the university to have actually attended the university.
James E. Talmage.JPG James E. Talmage 1894-1897[5]
Joseph T. Kingsbury 1897–1916 For the second time Kingsbury was appointed as the president of the University of Utah, this time serving for nearly twenty years.
John A. Widtsoe.jpg John A. Widtsoe 1916–1921 John A. Widtsoe was the president of Utah State University from 1907 until 1916 when he became the president of the University of Utah. He continued as president until he was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve in the LDS church. The University of Utah, Utah State, and BYU all have buildings named after him.
George Thomas 1921–1941
LeRoy E. Cowles 1941–1946 His presidency, 1941–46, spanned the World War II years. Classes were added in military science, economics and philosophy of war and programs began in Army pre-flight, Navy V-1 and R.O.T.C. One of the far-reaching academic achievements of the period was expansion of the medical program into a four-year medical school. In 1980 one of the first three buildings on the campus was renamed in his honor. The LeRoy E. Cowles Building currently houses Mathematics.
A. Ray Olpin 1946–1964 During A. Ray Olpin's presidency the university quadrupled in size and the enrollment tripled from 4,000 to 12,000 students.[6] The current student union building at the university is named in his honor.
James Fletcher, official NASA portrait.jpg James C. Fletcher 1964–1971 James C. Fletcher was the president at the university from 1964 until he became the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1971.
Alfred C. Emery 1971–1973
David P. Gardner 1973–1983
Chase N. Peterson 1983–1991
Arthur K. Smith 1991–1997
Bernie Machen in 2008.jpg Bernie Machen 1998–2004
Michael K. Young 2004–2011
David W. Pershing 2012–present

Timeline of presidential terms[edit]

Presidents of the University of Utah
David W. Pershing Michael K. Young Bernie Machen Arthur K. Smith Chase N. Peterson David P. Gardner Alfred C. Emery James C. Fletcher A. Ray Olpin LeRoy E. Cowles George Thomas(educator) John A. Widtsoe Joseph T. Kingsbury James E. Talmage Joseph T. Kingsbury John R. Park David O. Calder Orson Spencer


  1. ^ a b "University of Utah Sesquicentennial, 1850-2000". J. Willard Marriott Library Special Collections. 2000. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  2. ^ "Michael K. Young President, University of Utah". University of Utah. 2008. Retrieved 2010-07-19. 
  3. ^ a b c Whitney, Orson F. (1904) in History of Utah Published by G. Q. Cannon, pg. 356. Google Book Search. Retrieved on March 31, 2009.
  4. ^ "The New U of U, 1892-1914". University of Utah. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  5. ^ University of Utah Alumni Association e-newsletter, U-News & Views, August 2007
  6. ^ "A. Ray Olpin". University of Utah. 2007. Retrieved April 1, 2009.