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The Utah State Board of Regents has selected a respected University of Utah administrator and scientist to succeed the retiring F. Ann Millner as president of Weber State University.
Charles Wight, a long-time chemistry professor, has served as the U.'s associate vice president for academic affairs and dean of the graduate school since 2006, earning a reputation as a warm teacher and gifted researcher.
"It is my honor, pleasure and pure delight to be named the 12th president of Weber State University," Wight told 300 people gathered at the Shepherd Union, where the Regents announced their decision on the Odgen campus. "The university is committed to do its part to contribute to the state's goal of 66 percent college participation by 2020. We will map out a role. There are lots of things you can to contribute to student success. Technology is one effective tool we'll be using."
Wight, who goes by Chuck, is a father of three and his youngest daughter is expected to graduate soon from Utah State University. Wight was among 50 candidates who emerged in a national search and one of four finalists selected by the search committee.
He was joined Tuesday by his wife Victorian Rasmussen, a professional development manager with the Utah Education Network.
"I'm looking forward to being a Wildcat," she said. "I have a soft spot for big cats."
During a candidate meeting with students Monday, Wight was seen as a favorite, although students were comfortable with other finalists as well, according to one leader.
"He wooed us, there were no questions we had about how he would do as president. That says a lot," said student-body president Andrew Gardiner, an accounting major from Layton. "Not only did he have a good interview, he is a decent man. He'll take us where we need to be, and for the students that's more innovation and better use of technology."
Wight praised Millner for helping Weber become one of the state's premier institutions, covering an array of missions, from open-access two-year programs to graduate degrees.
"I am excited to ... help guide its mission of providing students with personalized learning experiences that will help them become responsible, educated members of their communities," Wight said. "I am committed to educational excellence, student engagement, service learning, and undergraduate research. I am eager to work collaboratively with WSU's superb faculty, administration, trustees, and staff to keep the university moving along the positive trajectory it has been on during President Millner's tenure."
Millner has worked at Weber in a variety of positions since the early 1980s, the last decade as president. A specialist in health education, she plans to return to the classroom, but will remain in charge until Wight assumes the reins Jan. 1. Under her tenure enrollment has doubled to 25,000 and its graduate offerings expanded.
"She has built and managed a solid institution. It's stable, poised and ready for the next step," said Regents chairwoman Bonnie Jean Beesley.
"We couldn't be more thrilled. Here is man with nothing but wonderful credentials. For him to come and take Weber to the next step and to have this kind of leadership will be substantial," said Weber trustees chairman Alan Hall. "He has a grasp of where higher education is going and how to deliver education. Looking ahead, there is a great need to look at innovation and he has shown us that as well."
At the U., Wight is famous for making science fun and instruction effective. Known is some circles as "the chemdog," Wight investigates rates and mechanisms of combustion reactions of high explosives and propellants.
Attired in top hat and other 19th century garb, he joins colleague Peter Armentrout to stage the Faraday chemistry lectures around Christmas every year, demonstrating the explosive properties of hydrogen and lycopodium powder in old-school displays of chemistry in action.
But for the rest of the year, Wight looks to 21st century means for delivering education not just at the U. but all over the state at colleges and high schools alike. He is a key figure in the state's effort to overhaul concurrent enrollment program by standardizing courses and delivering them on-line.
"Chuck Wight is a smart, innovative, and effective leader who has played a major role in the U.'s success for nearly three decades," said Michael Hardman, the U.'s dean of the College of Education and interim senior vice president. "He has earned and genuinely deserves the opportunity to take the helm at Weber State. While his leaving is without question a significant loss for the U, we congratulate Weber's new president, wish him much success, and look forward to working closely with him and our colleagues at Weber State in the years to come."
Weber State's president-select came to the University of Utah in 1984 as an assistant professor of chemistry and has won several teaching and research awards, including being named a fellow by Alfred P. Sloan Foundation American Association for the Advancement of Science. He holds a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology. He researches combustion rates of high explosives and was deputy director of the U.'s Center for Simulation of Accidental Fires and Explosions. He has filed three patents and published 150 peer-review articles.