Michael Young was humble and humorous during an interview in his Utah office today, hours after the University of Washington announced he was chosen to be its next president.
SALT LAKE CITY — Michael Young was humble and humorous during an interview in his Utah office today, hours after the University of Washington announced he was chosen to be its next president.
Calling himself “just a faculty guy wearing a president’s hat” and a “kid from a small town in Northern California,” Young, 61, riffed on subjects including fundraising, relations with lawmakers, and his fondness for Harleys and the Rolling Stones during a 45-minute interview.
Throughout, Young spoke of his excitement about coming to the UW, which he said is “poised to be a world leader” in public education. He said he would’ve been happy to stay at Utah but couldn’t resist the “extraordinary opportunity” to go to Washington.
Known at the University of Utah for his collaborative, accessible style, Young said he looked forward to working with Washington’s legislators, business leaders, faculty and students as he did in Utah.
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Short on specific proposals for dealing with the “most immediate challenge” of UW’s budget, he said he’d employ his trademark quality. “I listen,” he said.
Young spoke about the $1.2 billion fundraising campaign he led at Utah, which is near completion. Signs of its success abound on campus with six construction cranes hovering over new buildings. He was especially proud of the 48,000 new donors the campaign attracted.
“That’s a permanent community that got our vision, now aligned in a way that makes the sky the limit.” The key to such fundraising, he said, was tapping the passions of donors so the university became a vehicle to help them realize their dreams.
Young said he likes working with lawmakers.
“The message I want to send the Legislature is, ‘We’re not just another supplicant at the table. We want to partner with you to serve the people the best we can.’ “
He said he often told conservative lawmakers in Salt Lake City the university was “an investment line, not just a budget line.”
The university’s success in creating spinoff companies from its research has produced 7,500 jobs and $100 million in taxes, he said.
Young is an expert on Japanese law. His office is adorned with Japanese decorations, down to coasters that he slid under one of his rare guilty pleasures, a Diet Coke. He said UW’s proximity and connections to Asia were appealing to him in his decision-making.
He called late Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, for whom he clerked, a mentor. While he and Rehnquist didn’t always “see eye-to-eye,” Rehnquist taught him the importance of thinking about one’s core values and “what is the prism through which you consider things.”
On the lighter side, Young said he’ll bring his Harley-Davidson Softail Fat Boy motorcycle, along with mountain and road bicycles, to Seattle. He prefers the Stones to the Beatles, he said, because the Stones have a “certain kind of earthiness that appeals to me.”
Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or firstname.lastname@example.org