Dr. Ruth Watkins has been named the new president of the University of Utah. Watkins has been serving as the Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and will be the university’s first female president in its 168-year history.
The announcement came during a public vote from Utah's Board of Regents on Thursday night. Before the vote was even finished, the crowd was on their feet applauding.
“We appreciate the enthusiasm, but we should probably make this official," said Dan Campbell, chairman of the Board of Regents.
Watkins was chosen from three finalists. Her face was the most familiar among the candidates, having worked at the U since 2013 when she was named the university’s provost.
“I look forward to the opportunity to work with many of the same people I have been working with over the past four years and that helps a lot," Watkins said.
Watkins will officially replace current president David Pershing this spring.
Pershing announced he would be stepping down last year following a controversial firing in April. The head of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, which is based at the university, was removed and then promptly reinstated following public backlash.
Watkins will begin her tenure with expectations of greater transparency and clearer communication for the university community.