Michael K. Young
President, University of Utah
2004~2011

Michael K. Young, President, University of Utah
Michael Young

Brigham Young High School
Class of 1967


Alumni of BY High were delighted when they learned that Michael Young, Class of 1967, had been selected as 14th President of the University of Utah.

Some had heard that Mike was one of three finalists from a field of 147 candidates from all over the US and several foreign countries. A 21-member Search Committee, chaired by Regent James S. Jardine, interviewed the finalists.

The announcement was made on April 29, 2004. Board of Regents Vice Chair George E. Mantes noted that the Board “faced a difficult decision, given the personal qualities and experience of each of the finalists. In selecting President Young, we believe we have found the person best prepared to lead our flagship University into the future. He has the right combination of experience and leadership skills. The Regents have every confidence that he will be an outstanding leader and President.”

President Young, 54, officially assumed his duties as president on August 2, 2004. He succeeded J. Bernard Machen, who left January 1 to accept the presidency of the University of Florida, and Dr. Lorris Betz, who has served as Interim President. Dr. Betz has now resumed his roles as Senior Vice President for Health Sciences, Dean of the School of Medicine, and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Utah Health System.

President Young brings to the University of Utah considerable academic experience, including more than 25 years as a faculty member and the past six years as Dean and Lobinger Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence at the George Washington University Law School. President Young also brings significant government experience as a former official of the United States Department of State.

Prior to coming to George Washington in 1998, President Young was on the faculty of Columbia University where he was the Fuyo Professor of Japanese Law (1978-1998). While at Columbia Law School, he was also the Director of the Center for Japanese Legal Studies (1985-1998), Director of the Center for Korean Legal Studies (1995-1998) and Co-Director of the Program on Religion, Human Rights and Religious Freedom (1994-1998).

In 1989, he was appointed as the Deputy Legal Adviser for the U.S. State Department until being appointed as the Deputy Under Secretary for Economic and Agricultural Affairs in 1991, and from 1992-1993 he served as the Ambassador for Trade and Environmental Affairs.

As Dean of the George Washington University Law School he was instrumental in the school seeing an increase in the mean GPA and LSAT scores of students, strengthening the school’s profile of minority students including the largest percentage of African-Americans of any “selective” national law school, and significantly expanding the career development office to assist graduates with job placements.

He also increased the amount and availability of research grants and created a number of areas of excellence recognized internationally, including the Sloan Program in Corporate Responsibility and Accountability, Joint Masters Degree Program in International Intellectual Property, Domestic Violence Clinic, and International Human Rights Clinic.

He is currently serving his second term as Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a major federal advisory commission created by Congress in 1998 to advise the President, the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor and the Congress on U.S. foreign policy and ways in which the United States can more effectively deploy its foreign policy to advance the cause of religious liberties around the world. He has served on the Commission since 1998.

In accepting his appointment President Young stated, “I appreciate the confidence entrusted in me by the Board of Regents. It is a wonderful opportunity to be asked to come to the University of Utah, which has a wonderful reputation in a number of areas. I look forward to working with the excellent administrators, faculty, and staff of the University, getting to know the students and becoming part of the larger Utah community. Suzan and I have loved Utah for a very long time, and to be able to return to this state for this purpose is very gratifying.”

President Young graduated from Brigham Young High School, then earned a B.A. (Summa Cum Laude) in Political Science and Japanese from Brigham Young University. He earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School (Magna Cum Laude) where he served for two years on the Harvard Law Review. Following law school, he clerked with then U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist.

President Young is married to the former Suzan Stewart, a registered nurse, who is a native of Orem, Utah. She is also a graduate of Brigham Young University. President and Mrs. Young are the parents of three children: Stewart, a third-year law student at Stanford University, Kathryn, a senior at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Andrew, a senior at George Washington University.

"I have a brother probably in cardiac arrest down in Springville, but my passion for the Utes knows no bounds," Young said. "It's an amusing thing, but a more serious side to it (is that) one of the ways great universities move forward is through collaboration with other great universities."

Young, a descendant of Brigham Young, said he is a "committed, active member of the LDS Church" and does not see that as a conflict in his new role.

"It's an important part of who I am and why I do what I do," he said. "At the same time I have spent my entire academic career outside of Utah. It has never been a problem."

Jardine said Young's religion was not brought up as an issue as the regents discussed the candidates.

Young has published extensively in English and in a number of foreign languages on a variety of topics. Topics include the Japanese legal system, dispute resolution, mergers and acquisitions, labor relations, the legal profession, comparative law, industrial policy, trade regulation, trade law, legal reform in Eastern Europe, the North American Free Trade Agreement, international trade law, international environmental law, international human rights, and freedom of religion. His latest books are The Fundamentals of U.S. Trade Law and Japanese Law in Context, and Readings in Society, The Economy, and Politics, both published in 2001.

Student Body President Alex Lowe says students on campus have been following the presidential search and are very happy with the decision. “We could not be more excited. Michael Young is exactly what the University needs and he has committed to being 100 percent accessible to students. We are looking forward to a great year”, said Lowe.

Utah Board of Trustees Chair Jim Macfarlane says the new president has the qualities needed to lead one of the nation’s top research institutions. “Michael Young brings a strong commitment to academic excellence coupled with a keen understanding of the complex external responsibilities of the president, not only in Utah but nationally and internationally. We are delighted he will lead the University of Utah.”

Fred Esplin, Vice President for University Relations, will be collaborating with the new president to get out to the community Young’s vision of higher education. “Michael Young is the ideal choice for president of the University of Utah. His combination of exceptional academic credentials, strong leadership experience, and the ability to effectively reach out to the community is exactly what the U needs”, said Esplin.

Colleagues at George Washington say their loss is Utah's gain. "You guys suck, and you can print that," said Larry Mitchell, a George Washington University law professor. "The University of Utah is getting an absolute star," he said.

The University of Utah is the largest institution of the Utah System of Higher Education. Founded in 1850, it was the first public higher education institution in Utah, now with more than 28,000 students, 2,750 faculty, and 11,500 staff, and a campus comprising almost 1,500 acres in the eastern foothills of Salt Lake City. It is a major academic and research institution with an extensive health sciences center. It offers majors in 72 subjects at the undergraduate level and more than 90 major fields of study at the graduate level including law school and medical school.



Mike Young, 1964
Mike was an athletic, studious
and popular guy at BY High,
graduating in 1967.

1965 portrait


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Michael K. Young, President, University of Utah
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