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In his 13 years as Utah State University president, Stanford Cazier presided over an era of expansion of the school's student body and its research, especially in space and education.

"People don't often think of Utah State as a great research university, but it is," said Blyth Ahlstrom, an assistant provost emeritus who worked closely with Cazier for decades.

Cazier died last week at age 82.

Trained as a history professor with a master's degree from the University of Utah and a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, Cazier was an electrifying lecturer, said USU professor emeritus Ross Peterson, who had Cazier as a professor when he was a student in the 1960s.

"He made it really, really exciting," he said. "In that day, you didn't have a lot of media. I'm not sure there was even an overhead projector. It was just how you told the story, the history, how you got people excited about the ideas."

Once, during a lecture on William Jennings Bryan and the populist movement, Cazier leaned on a table —¬†and it collapsed.

"He slid right down to his rear end, but he never stopped talking," Peterson said. "He just kept quoting, stood up and finished his lecture."

Cazier rose to department head, then was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship to study leadership in New York City. He returned to Utah State as vice-provost, then was offered a position as president at California State University Chico, said Ahlstrom, who moved to California to be Cazier's executive assistant in 1971.

The history professors had known each other for more than a decade by then, having met at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward in New York City when Ahlstrom was finishing his graduate work and Cazier had his first teaching job at a community college in the Bronx.

"He was extremely well-read in history and the humanities," and also knowledgeable about science, Ahlstrom said. "All of that gave him the background for being a president."

Cazier stayed there eight years, until Utah State came calling again. Both men returned to Logan, where Cazier took over as president in 1979. A frequent traveler to promote the university, he oversaw growth in the student body and donations, as well as USU's centennial celebration, according to a press release.

Cazier worked to make students a part of the governing process, Peterson said, making sure they had a spot on the board of trustees and on search committees.

"He came out of a time when there was a lot of student unrest," Peterson said. "He had great relations with student leaders while he was president."

Cazier returned to the classroom after retiring as president in 1992, where he worked full-time for another five years. Afterward, he volunteered for organizations such as Meals on Wheels and fulfilled a longtime curiosity when he learned to drive a semi trailer.

"He took one trip and said, "I don't like truck driving,'" Ahlstrom said with a laugh. "It was pretty boring, and hard to read."

In 2006, USU named its new $40 million Merrill-Cazier Library in his honor, along with another former administrator, Milton Merrill, whose name Cazier insisted should come first, Ahlstrom said.

"He had a kind of charisma," Ahlstrom said. "There are people that have that. Their personality comes out in a way. You can just feel that."

Cazier was preceded in death by his wife Shirley and two sons, Thomas and Paul. He leaves two other sons, David and John, as well as a daughter-in-law, brother, and four grandchildren. Family and friends will gather to celebrate his life Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. the Allen Hall Mortuary, 34 East Center Street in Logan.

Twitter: @lwhitehurst