Campus Notebook

Governor, Legislature Show Support for the U in 2012

Legislative session victories in 2012 include infrastructure funds and dental-school approval.

Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert and the state Legislature demonstrated clear support for higher education and the University of Utah during the 2012 legislative session that ended March 8.

Higher education received the first increase in state funding since 2008, and thanks to the efforts of University of Utah Interim President Lorris Betz and new President David Pershing, the U specifically received much-needed funding to replace its failing infrastructure.

Alumni, students, and faculty and staff members who had signed up to be political advocates for the University played a key role in helping communicate the U’s needs to the legislators and governor, and the U Alumni Association helped organize their efforts.

“Several legislators have let me know how much they appreciated the thoughtful and helpful communications they received from our advocates during the session,” President Pershing wrote in a letter to the advocates after the session’s end. “Your outreach helped secure many of our top priorities and enhanced our relationship with the Legislature.”

The U had many victories during the session. Among the successes:

  • A top priority for higher education was the need to fund specific initiatives at each institution while providing increased funding for significant student growth throughout the system. The Legislature appropriated $8 million, which will be evenly split between initiatives and growth.
  • The U received $22 million to begin replacing its failing infrastructure. This appropriation, combined with a portion of the $30 million that was allocated for system-wide capital improvement projects, will allow the U to complete all of its year one infrastructure requirements. The University will continue to work with the Legislature for the funding that will be required in subsequent years.
  • Over the past five years, the USTAR initiative has attracted world-class researchers to the state and has brought in more than $175 million in direct and indirect research funds. This initiative has been critical to the mission of the University of Utah, and this year, $6 million was appropriated to restore cuts to the program over the past several years.
  • Effective this year, funding has been allocated to give a 1 percent compensation increase for higher-education employees.

Several buildings were authorized by the Legislature for the U, including:

  • Authorization to construct the Student Life Center after raising $10 million. Thanks to statutory amendments now in place, the University can proceed with this much-anticipated building.
  • Bonding authorization plus operations and maintenance funding to construct the new S.J. Quinney College of Law Building. This was the only building in the state to receive operation and maintenance approval this year.
  • Authorization to use $37.4 million in previously donated funds to construct a new dental school building.
  • Bonding authorization to expand the Orthopaedic Center.
  • Bonding authorization to expand the athletics center.
  • Bonding authorization to construct two parking structures, one near the HPER building and another for Health Sciences.

Five Receive 2012 Honorary Degrees at the University

The University awarded five honorary doctoral degrees during the annual commencement ceremonies held on May 4.

A. Lorris Betz was given an honorary doctorate of science. Betz joined the University in 1999 as senior vice president for health sciences, dean of the School of Medicine, and chief executive officer of the University of Utah Health System. He has served twice as interim president of the University, most recently from May 2011 to March 2012. H. David Burton BS’67, who served as presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1996 until this past March, received an honorary doctorate in business. Burton worked more than four decades in Utah as a dedicated civic leader, financial steward, and community builder.

A. Lorris Betz

H. David Burton

Wataru “Wat” Misaka

Jerilyn McIntyre

Beverley Taylor Sorenson

Philanthropist Beverley Taylor Sorenson BS’45 received an honorary doctorate of fine arts. In 1995, Sorenson founded Art Works for Kids, a teaching model that integrates arts into core subjects to improve learning for elementary school students. Sorenson’s philanthropic efforts have led to the construction of several buildings on the U’s campus, including the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex.Wataru “Wat” Misaka BS’48 received an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Misaka was the first professional basketball player of Asian descent and the first non-white person to play in the National Basketball Association. He went on to become a successful engineer and, until recently, consulted for a circuit-board business in Salt Lake City. Jerilyn McIntyre, Central Washington University’s first woman president, received an honorary doctorate of education. She served the University of Utah on the faculty as professor of communication and in the administration as vice president for academic affairs and twice as interim president. She serves the University still through the advisory boards of the Marriott Library and the Tanner Center for Nonviolent Human Rights Advocacy.

Keith Sterling Named U Communications Director

Keith Sterling

Keith Sterling is the new communications director for the University of Utah. Reporting directly to the chief marketing and communications officer, Bill Warren, who joined the U last year, Sterling will work to develop a strategic media relations plan to help elevate the profile of the U while also serving as the University’s primary media spokesperson.

Sterling came to the U from the city of Burbank, Calif., where he held the position of public information officer. Prior to his time in Burbank, he served as public relations director for the city of Broken Arrow, Okla.; Scottsdale School District in Arizona; and a boutique advertising and public relations agency, also in Arizona.

College of Education Slated to Move to Sorenson Arts Complex

Plans for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex have been expanded so that it will include a new home for the entire College of Education. The complex is currently in final design and scheduled to be completed in November 2013.

To accommodate faculty and staff in the College of Education, the $32 million complex will be increased from its original size of 82,000 square feet to 110,000 square feet. Additionally, the construction site for the complex has been relocated to the east side of Milton Bennion Hall. The new building site provides the College of Education, the College of Fine Arts, and the Virginia Tanner Dance Program considerably more space.

In Memoriam

Matthew “Bronco” Bradley MEd’06, 41, community activist, University of Utah associate professor, and co-director of the Honors College’s Social Justice Scholars program

Thetis M. Group, M.D., 73, dean and professor emerita of Syracuse University and adjunct professor at the University of Utah

Tom Loveridge BA’79 MEd’81, 58, University of Utah administrator for more than 30 years

Click here for more.

The Fast and the Furious

A unique exhibit at the UMFA brings together 19 famous automobiles.  

This 1957 Jaguar XK-SS, once owned by Steve McQueen and now owned by the Petersen Automotive Museum, is part of the “Speed” exhibit at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. (Photo by Peter Harholdt)

The 1938 Mormon Meteor III was once owned by racing legend Ab Jenkins. (Photo by Peter Harholdt)

Steve McQueen called it the “Green Rat”: a 1957 Jaguar XK-SS roadster resplendent in British racing green, one of only 18 such machines built. McQueen would hop in the Jag and zip down narrow, two-lane Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, squealing through hairpin turns and maybe slowing before his friend James Garner’s house just long enough to toss beer cans into the latter’s immaculate front lawn.

The 1952 So-Cal Speed Shop Belly Tank reached 198.34 miles per hour at Bonneville. (Photo by Peter Harholdt)

Reckless driving didn’t get McQueen (cancer claimed him in 1980) or the Green Rat, which ended up in the hands of private collectors. Now, for a limited time, the car will be among 18 other famous automobiles on display at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, from June 2 to September 16. The “Speed: The Art of the Performance Automobile” exhibit has been in the works since October 2008, when avid car collector and ambassador John Price approached the museum with an idea: Why not host an exhibit of automobiles representing the highest achievements of engineers, designers, and drivers? Guest curator and automotive historian Ken Gross—who has spearheaded automotive exhibitions nationwide—was tapped to pull together the exhibit, with cars on loan from some of the country’s top automobile collections, including the National Automotive Museum, as well as many private collectors. “The most difficult part of an exhibit like this is convincing collectors that they should part with their cars for better than four months,” says Gross.

“Speed” is the first exhibit of its kind, bringing together these 19 automobiles, from a 1904 Peerless racer to a 1975 rocket-on-wheels that topped 432 miles per hour in 1991. But there’s more to this exhibit than horsepower and history. The vehicles—which Gross calls “rolling sculpture”—epitomize the curves and angles of their respective eras. “People are looking at these cars as 20th-century industrial art,” Gross says.

A New Way to Predict Risk for Preterm Birth

A simple blood test may help to spot preterm births in advance.

Though more than one in 10 American babies are born prematurely, there have been few clues to predict whether a particular baby is going to arrive too early. Now, a new blood test developed from research by scientists with the University of Utah, Brigham Young University, and Intermountain Healthcare could spot more than 80 percent of preterm births in advance.

The test measures three new peptide biomarkers that, in combination with other proteins, can signal high risk of preterm birth. It works by looking at just a drop of blood from a mother who is 24 weeks pregnant.

“With preterm birth, if we could even prolong a pregnancy by one or two weeks, we could make a very big impact on the number of babies that survive and make sure that those that survive are healthy,” says M. Sean Esplin, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah and an obstetrician for Intermountain Healthcare who was the lead author of the study that paved the way for creating the test.

Knowing she is at high risk for preterm birth is a big advantage for a mother when it comes to decisions about travel and activity level. Esplin also notes that a new hormone treatment can help a baby stay in the womb a little longer.

Esplin and Steven Graves, who directs the chemistry portion of the research at BYU, began searching for molecular clues to pregnancy complications in 2002. The new method for predicting preterm birth is patented by the University of Utah and BYU and has been licensed to a company called Sera Prognostics. The company hopes to wrap up testing by the end of 2012 and aims to have the diagnostic test on the market in 2013. The company recently secured $19.3 million in venture capital financing from private investors to develop the test.

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