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Originally published Monday, April 25, 2011 at 7:05 AM

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UW regents praise unanimous pick, Michael Young

Before they offered the presidency of the University of Washington to Michael Young on Monday, the Board of Regents considered three finalists, all of whom are sitting university presidents, according to the firm hired to help with the search.

Seattle Times staff reporters

Michael Young describes himself

He is: Among other things, a kid from a small Northern California town.

Known for: Being collaborative, accessible.

Trademark: "I listen."

On UW: "Poised to be a world leader" in public education.

Likes lawmakers: But a university is not "just another supplicant at the table. We want to partner with you to serve the people ... "

What's really important: Remembering one's core values and "the prism through which you consider things."

Favorite toy: Harley-Davidson Softail Fat Boy motorcycle.

Rolling Stones or Fab Four? Stones, yes; Beatles, not so much. Stones have a "certain kind of earthiness."

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Before they offered the presidency of the University of Washington to Michael Young on Monday, the Board of Regents considered three finalists, all of whom are sitting university presidents, according to the firm hired to help with the search.

Bill Funk, president of consulting firm R. William Funk & Associates, said that demonstrates the candidate pool for UW's top job was a strong one.

"That's just usually not the case," he said. "It only happens about 10 to 15 percent of the time."

Young had been rumored to be a candidate for weeks, and sources said Friday that he would be the regents' pick. But it wasn't official until Monday, when the regents voted unanimously to offer the job to Young, who has been president of the University of Utah since 2004.

The UW and Young still need to negotiate an employment contract, but that's largely viewed as a formality. His start date is scheduled for July 1, and he is to appear at a news conference at the university Wednesday morning.

In an interview in Utah on Monday, Young, 61, 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 have been happy to stay at Utah but couldn't resist the "extraordinary opportunity" to go to Washington.

For their part, the regents and members of the search committee said Young was just what they were looking for in a president, someone with strong academic credentials and real-world experience, but also someone who is humble and good at listening.

"I think that we've made a terrific choice," Board Chairman Herb Simon said. "The emails I received today from many people throughout this state reinforce the fact that he will be an incredible leader."

Regent Sally Jewell, CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc., said Young "has the kind of breath and depth that you hope you find when you look for a university president."

When talking with him, she said, "you would just tell you were dealing with a pro."

As president of the University of Utah, Young is credited with helping spur nearly 2 million square feet of capital construction, making the institution a leader in nurturing business spinoffs from university research, and raising private giving from $130 million to $165 million a year.

The UW selection committee started with more than 100 candidates, narrowed the field to about 20, then interviewed about a dozen people. The committee then winnowed the pool again to about a half-dozen, did more interviews, then forwarded its three top choices to the regents, the university's governing body.

"We wanted to really be thorough in this," said Kellye Testy, dean of the University of Washington law school and chair of the search committee.

Testy and others declined to name the other two finalists.

But Testy and Simon said the committee and the regents wanted someone with strong academic credentials who understands the mission of a university and would have credibility with faculty.

"In a research institution, attracting and retaining faculty is really important," Jewell said. "And faculty look for a leader who understands their world."

Young was recruited for the job, and it took several conversations to interest him in applying, Funk and Testy said.

On the surface, Young, a Mormon who worked for President George H.W. Bush's administration, can appear to be an odd choice for liberal Seattle.

Testy said Monday that the search committee looked closely at whether Young would be a good fit for UW and all its constituencies in Washington state — from students and staff to business leaders and lawmakers.

She said she is satisfied that Young doesn't just tolerate diversity, but embraces it.

"You trust him," she said. "You really feel that he has a lot of range and can look through a lot of different problems in a very fair way."

Young's appointment comes almost exactly one year after former President Mark Emmert announced he was leaving the university to take the top job with the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

J.W. Harrington, a professor and chairman of the UW Faculty Senate, said he is thrilled with Young's appointment, "and I'm not just saying that."

Harrington said he was particularly impressed with the way Young worked with the faculty senate in Utah — taking its concerns seriously.

"He sees a real role for internal deliberation," Harrington said.

Janelle Taylor, an associate professor of anthropology and president of the UW's chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said her organization hopes Young might bring some of the University of Utah's policies to Washington state — especially a rule that the president can't recommend anything to the regents without the support of the academic senate.

Until Monday, UW officials had been tight-lipped about their search, saying many job prospects refuse to be considered if they know their names would become public. Young, however, had been rumored to be a candidate for weeks, and that didn't seem to cause problems for him.

Before taking the job at Utah, he was dean of the George Washington University Law School, and he also served 20 years on the faculty at Columbia University. Under the first President Bush, Young served as an ambassador for trade and environmental affairs, deputy undersecretary for economic and agricultural affairs and deputy legal adviser to the State Department.

At the University of Utah, Young's total compensation was $723,595 for the 2009-2010 academic year, with a base pay of $348,403, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

How much he will earn at Washington certainly will be an issue of interest. Emmert was criticized for his high salary. If he had stayed at the university, he would have made more than $900,000, but he forfeited more than $200,000 in deferred compensation by leaving last fall before his contract was up.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times staff reporter Brittney Wong contributed to this report. Information from Seattle Times archives also was included.

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