President’s contract extended; search continues for next UW leader

At its Nov. 21 meeting, the UW Board of Regents changed the status of UW President Lee Huntsman, dropping “interim” from his title and extending his contract until fall 2005.

“Lee has kept this institution moving forward,” said Gerald Grinstein, president of the board. “We need him right now. It is vital to have continuity and stability in this chapter of the University’s history.”

Huntsman had been serving as the UW provost when he became interim president in December 2002, after the departure of former President Richard McCormick for Rutgers University. The regents initially hoped to have a new UW president hired by the fall of 2003, but that deadline proved to be unrealistic.

Huntsman, who is 62, has said he is not a candidate for the long-term presidency because he believes the UW needs someone who can fill the role for at least 10 years. He said he did not want to make that kind of time commitment.

The regents hope to have a new UW president hired by the beginning of Fall Quarter 2004, but have Huntsman on contract until 2005 in case the search takes longer. School of Medicine Dean Paul Ramsey is heading the search committee, which plans to give the regents a set of possible candidates in May.

Recent failures of presidential searches at the University of Tennessee and Boston University have made the regents more determined to take their time and find someone they feel is the best leader possible. “We don’t want to put our institution at risk,” Regent Sally Jewell said in a Seattle Times interview.

Born in Tacoma, Huntsman went to elementary school in several south Puget Sound communities and graduated from high school in Anacortes. He got his bachelor’s degree from Stanford, where he met his wife, Ginnie. The couple has three grown children.

Huntsman received his Ph.D. in bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968 and immediately joined the UW faculty. His research specialty is the mechanics of heart and its muscle, cardiovascular system assessment and new measurement techniques. In 1980, he was named director of the Center for Bioengineering, a unit of both the College of Engineering and the School of Medicine. He held that position until his appointment as provost in 1997. While at bioengeineering, he was also an associate dean for scientific affairs in the UW School of Medicine.

With this action, Huntsman becomes the 29th president of the University of Washington, heading an institution with a $2.4 billion annual budget and a community of 50,000 students, faculty and staff.