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Originally published Monday, April 25, 2011 at 4:11 PM

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Michael K. Young is a spectacular get for the University of Washington

Michael K. Young was an early favorite of the University of Washington's Board of Regents. A powerful résumé steeped in areas that resonate deeply in Seattle and Washington state — including business development, trade and the Pacific Rim — explains why.

quotes It seems like a fine hire to me. Someone who's been a proven leader of a large univers... Read more
quotes Political nimbleness -- likeable -- fundraiser. How about educates more qualified... Read more
quotes I've seen Utah's world class medical research centers. Built or expanded during Pres... Read more

MICHAEL Young was an early favorite of the University of Washington's presidential search committee because of his impressive experience in business development, trade and the Pacific Rim — all of which resonate deeply in Seattle and Washington state.

Young has been president of the University of Utah since 2004, a tenure marked by his success in generating more money and prestige, including expansion of research funding, a building boom on campus and a jump to the Pac-12 athletic conference.

The UW is right to roll out the welcome mat. And the man who propelled Utah to lead the nation in incubating new businesses is invited to start immediately ginning up new startups here.

Higher education is at a historic crossroads. It must reshape and innovate. The UW's aspirations to be a world-class educational institution are hindered by enormous financial pressure.

Young is credited with a political nimbleness that allowed him to broker relationships between the largely Democratic Salt Lake City and the Republican state of Utah. Washington is a more blue state, but Young's ability to play on both sides of the partisan divide should help him.

But Olympia is only part of the dynamic moving forward. This page's excitement about Young is fueled by an expectation that he will boldly lead the way beyond state funding and policies.

Higher education in Washington will always require substantial state support. But the institutions must reset and Young may be the game changer we have been looking for.

His background in commercialization and management of intellectual property are gold mines, particularly at a top research institution such as the UW. Courageous leadership from Young could invigorate and elevate this area. The university is an unqualified economic engine in this state. The UW should push aggressively to leverage research and development. Beneficial relationships with Boeing, Microsoft, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and this region's biotechnology companies should carve a path to the future the rest of higher education could follow.

Young must innovate, but he must also fundraise — considerably. Young's predecessor, Mark Emmert, who left last fall to become president of the NCAA, led an effort that brought in $2.68 billion.

Young is coming from a smaller stage. But he has a résumé that dazzles. 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 under President George H.W. Bush. He has expertise in international human rights, religious freedom and environmental law, and was founder of the Japanese and Korean law programs at Columbia University.

He is well respected. When he left George Washington University, where he was a professor and dean of the law school, the faculty raised money to renovate the faculty center — and named it after him.

A likable demeanor is as important as the rest of Young's résumé. In this age of shrinking state support for higher education, Young will need to communicate the needs of students and higher education in a way that connects but does not alienate.

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