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Former University of Utah President Michael Young remarried last week, tying the knot in a private ceremony with the ex-wife of a prominent U. donor and Salt Lake City philanthropist. Young's relationship with Marti Denkers, 38, had bothered some in the Eccles family, according to her ex-husband, but there is little evidence the family's generosity toward the school was jeopardized.
Steve Denkers, Marti's former spouse, is a member of the Eccles family, who has given hundreds of millions to the U. over the years.
"It seems the head of a university should have a little more tact," said Steve Denkers, a 1984 U. graduate who is executive director of the Willard L. Eccles Charitable Foundation, one of several Eccles family philanthropic outlets that supports education in Utah. Some family members would likely have been rethinking how they invest in the U. if Young was still president, he said.
Other Eccles family members could not be reached Friday and Spencer F. Eccles, the family's surviving patriarch, declined to speak with The Tribune.
The U. board of trustees, which includes Denkers' cousin Lisa Eccles, were not encouraging Young, 61, to leave his post when he landed one of the nation's top jobs in academia last spring, according to then-board chairman Randy Dryer.
The University of Washington regents tapped Young to lead the Northwest's largest research institution in late April and Young left for Seattle last month. He starts his new job at the beginning of July, but already is using the UW presidential manor, a 1.5-acre spread called Hill-Crest sitting above Lake Washington.
Young and his new wife, who is 38, were married on the deck of the home on June 3.
"The regents have given him access because he is doing work for us in the transition," said university spokesman Norman Arkans.
Young said he did not start dating Marti until after his divorce was finalized last fall. She invited him to Thanksgiving dinner and they began seeing each other seriously in January, he said.
"I am not happy about my divorce. You don't leave a marriage of 38 years on a whim," Young said Friday. He denied he left his wife, Suzan Young, to pursue a relationship with Marti Denkers.
Marti Young told the Seattle Times that she finds her new husband "completely hypnotic everybody feels that way about him. I wanted to marry him right out of the gate." She declined The Tribune's interview request.
She has a 16-year-old son who will move from Salt Lake City to live with the Youngs in Seattle, according to Steve Denkers, who is the teen's father.
Utah officials have praised Young's presidential tenure, which ended with the university in better shape than when it began in 2004. Philanthropic giving to the university grew and remained robust under his watch, even during the economic downturn that slowed giving to most other schools, according to annual donation reports.
"I have seen no evidence whatsoever of any university donor withholding or threatening to withhold financial support of the university as a result of President Young's divorce or new marriage," Dryer said.
Denkers, however, said he was uncomfortable in Young's presence at donor functions and resigned his seat on the school's National Advisory Council, although he remains on the Utah Museum of Natural History board.
"It's been an emotional year," said Denkers, who is being inducted into the U. College of Science Hall of Fame next week. "It became a high school drama. I had to withdraw from some of my commitments."
However, he never considered withholding support from the museum or other U. programs. The foundation he leads has given $2.5 million toward the museum's new home and is underwriting its grand-opening gala in November.