University of Washington President Michael Young has accepted a job at Texas A&M University and will take the helm of that institution this spring.
In a move that caught just about everyone by surprise Tuesday, Texas A&M University snatched up University of Washington President Michael Young — naming him as its new leader after a search that lasted more than a year.
UW faculty members, Washington state legislators and even UW regents all said they were shocked at the abrupt turn of events. Even those closest to Young had no idea he was in the running for another job.
Young, 65, has been at the helm of Washington’s flagship university only since April 2011, after serving as president of the University of Utah. It’s widely anticipated that Provost Ana Mari Cauce will be appointed by the UW Regents as interim president, perhaps as early as Thursday.
UW presidents since 1958
Charles Odegaard 1958-73
Philip Cartwright* 1973-74
John Hogness 1974-79
William Gerberding 1979-95
Richard McCormick 1995-2003
Lee Huntsman 2003-2004
Mark Emmert 2004-2010
Phyllis Wise* 2010-11
Michael Young 2011-2015
* Interim president
University of Washington
One big benefit of the move: Young will earn a Texas-size salary.
Most Read Local Stories
- COVID variant spreads to more countries as world on alert
- Maps from Seattle elections that made Bruce Harrell mayor show where races were won and lost
- Frustrated passengers leave stalled light-rail train near UW and walk through tunnel
- 'Unimaginable:' Mount Vernon dairy farmers reeling from flood devastation
- Flood watch in place for northwest Washington state following heavy rain
“He will be one of the best-paid college presidents in the state of Texas,” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, who is negotiating Young’s salary. “He probably won’t make what an assistant football coach makes, but he’ll be paid darn well.”
On Tuesday, regents for the Texas A&M University System unanimously voted to name Young the university’s next president. Under Texas law, the regents must wait at least 21 days to confirm his hiring.
Texas A&M’s former president, R. Bowen Loftin, earned $1.6 million in fiscal 2013, making him the second-highest-paid public-university president in the country that year, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Loftin left Texas A&M to become chancellor of the University of Missouri.
At the UW, Young makes a base salary of $622,008. And by leaving before June 2016, he will walk away from a deferred-compensation package of nearly $1 million.
During a hastily assembled news conference in the UW’s Computer Science & Engineering building Tuesday afternoon, Young said he did not seek out the job, but rather was recruited by Texas A&M.
One of the attractions, he said, was the amount of money Texas lawmakers are interested in investing in the university system, and he expressed disappointment that Washington lawmakers haven’t done a better job here.
The Texas job also sounded exciting, he said. “It’s about the opportunity to do something new. It sounds like an adventure.”
Sharp, who said Texas A&M is “already the largest dollar-wise research institution in the Southwest,” said he and Young discussed the university’s funding resources at length.
Total enrollment: 62,000
Main campus enrollment: 56,000
Operates two branch campuses in Galveston and Doha, Qatar
Revenues in FY 2015: $1.4 billion
Research expenditures for 2013: $820 million
2014 endowment: $11.1 billion
Faculty includes 3 Nobel Prize winners
University of Washington
Total enrollment: 55,000
Main campus enrollment: 45,000
Operates two branch campuses in Tacoma and Bothell
Revenues in FY 2014: $5.8 billion (includes UW hospital system)
Research awards in fiscal year 2014: $1.4 billion
2014 endowment: $2.8 billion
Faculty includes six Nobel Prize winners
Sources: Texas A&M, University of Washington
“I think he was pleased with that,” Sharp said. “I spent a great deal of time showing him what the budgets were and what the future budgets could be and where the money’s coming from.” The Texas A&M University System has an endowment of $11 billion, dwarfing the UW’s $2.8 billion, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
“I’m still in shock”
Young announced the move to senior UW staff members on Monday.
“I’m still in shock,” said Cauce, the provost. But she said she did not think Young’s abrupt departure would cause problems because the university’s leadership team is “deep and wide — we’re not going to skip a beat.”
Faculty members were also caught off-guard.
“I’m as surprised as you are — we didn’t have an inkling,” said Kate O’Neill, chair of the UW Faculty Senate and a law-school professor. She and others praised Young for his leadership, his ability to compromise and his commitment to faculty excellence.
But Young also had his share of critics, who say he has been aloof and distant, failed to develop a good relationship with state lawmakers and seemed uncomfortable and out of place in liberal Seattle. A Harvard-trained lawyer, Young once clerked for the late William Rehnquist, the conservative Supreme Court chief justice.
Young has played a pivotal role in a dispute with Washington State University over that school’s desire to build its own medical school in Spokane. Sixty-five state legislators have sponsored a bill that would clear the way for WSU to build a medical school, which some see as a political failure on Young’s part.
But Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, a member of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee, said Young was a strong advocate for higher education, and pushed the Legislature for funding contributions to start new science and technology scholarships for low- and moderate-income students. Young also pursued the idea of allowing institutions to set their own tuitions, Frockt said.
“I don’t think the Legislature or the public is there yet,” Frockt said. “But he made the point strongly that if we wanted to hold the line on tuition, we needed to put more dollars into higher education. I think he struck a good balance.”
Those closest to Young said he had a slow start in Seattle, and his wife, Marti — the two were married shortly after he was named president — was not happy here at first.
In 2013, the first year he was eligible for a raise, Young received a 4 percent salary boost, and regents gave him a tepid review, describing his performance as “solid.” But in October 2014, Young received a 6.2 percent salary increase, and the regents described him as performing “at exceptional levels by virtually any measure.”
List of accomplishments
During his tenure here, Young pushed for the creation of Startup Hall, a business incubator with rentable space, now operating on the second floor of a former UW law-school building. He has emphasized the importance of commercialization at the UW — taking ideas and discoveries and turning them into marketable products. He led the effort to create an online-degree program that allows state residents who never finished a bachelor’s degree to finish their credits at the UW.
Under his tenure, the UW rebuilt Husky Stadium by raising private money and boosting ticket prices, and opened new residence halls, remaking the west side of campus. And in the last few years, the UW set new records for the amount of private money it raised.
Startup Hall was “one of the things I was most excited about,” said Adam Sherman, a former student leader who now works at the UW’s Evans School of Public Affairs. “If he stayed longer, I think he could have done more projects like that, leaving behind something that benefitted not only Seattle but all of Washington state.”
Still, Sherman said he had a distinct difference of opinion on Young’s overarching mission.
“My feeling is that it’s important to have public support for a public university, and I would have liked to see more emphasis on that,” Sherman said. “But he thought his time was best invested in cultivating relationships with business groups and philanthropy. There wasn’t really a meeting of the minds.”
Some of Young’s friends in Utah were as surprised by the news as his colleagues in Seattle.
James Holtkamp, who has known Young since seventh grade and last saw him over the Christmas holidays, was stunned.
“He did not say a peep about this, and he’s always been very upbeat about his time in Washington,” he said. “He really considered that position a step up from Utah. He was very proud of it.”
As for who could be the next UW president, some said Cauce, the provost, would be a faculty favorite. On Tuesday, she declined to say whether she would want to be a candidate.
Another potential candidate: Gary Locke, the former governor and ambassador to China.
Some faculty members are already calling for an open process to pick the next president.
Janelle Taylor, chair of the anthropology department and an executive board member on the UW’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said she’d been unhappy with the secrecy of the process that led to Young’s hiring.
“Searches should have a public phase at the end, where the university community has an opportunity to hear from the candidates and provide input,” she said.