New President of U. of Washington says Mormonism taught him to embrace diversity

by | Jun. 14, 2011

Mormons We Know

Leaning back in his red armchair, Michael K. Young is the picture of a university president who has been in one place long enough to get comfortable.

There along his shelf are the signed footballs, representing the school's Bowl Championship Series victories. On the walls hang bright-red school paraphernalia. His desk is scattered with tokens of his seven-year tenure.

As comfortable as Young is at the University of Utah, he's leaving it all behind. Soon, as the new president of the University of Washington, Young will be in a different state, surrounded by different school colors, trying to find the same level of comfort.

After all, the recently remarried Young already faces skepticism of his Mormon faith. His religious affiliation triggered recent debate on The Seattle Times' website. One commenter wrote, "Any leader who professes a strong belief in religious hocus-pocus, dreamed up by those who thought the earth was flat, and was the center of the universe, (is) not fit to (lead)." Others were more positive toward his faith, "I have many Mormon friends and am blessed I do."

Along with Gordon Gee, the president of the Ohio State University, and Veldon Lane Rawlins, the president of North Texas University and former president of Washington State University, Young will be one of three Mormon academics who run public universities outside Utah.

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