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Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ R. Cantwell Named USU’s 17th President, Set to Start in August

New USU president Elizabeth "Betsy" R. Cantwell poses for a picture in front of USU's iconic Old Main building shortly after being named the Aggie's 17th president.
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Cantwell joins USU from the University of Arizona and brings a strong research background

By Jeff Hunter ’96

The Utah Board of Higher Education named Elizabeth “Betsy” R. Cantwell, a senior vice president at the University of Arizona, as Utah State University’s 17th president on May 19.

Cantwell plans to move into her new role beginning Aug. 1, succeeding Noelle E. Cockett, who has served as president of USU since January 2017. Cockett announced last November that she planned to step down from her position at the end of June, which led to a national search for her replacement.

“I am enormously grateful to the board for their faith in me, and I will do everything in my power to step into a place that has been basically made beautiful by President Cockett and move us all forward into what is truly an incredible future for Utah State University and for the state of Utah,” Cantwell said shortly after her appointment was announced by Utah Board of Higher Education chair Lisa-Michele Church.

Cantwell has served as senior vice president for research and innovation at the University of Arizona for the past four years. Prior to her time in Tucson, she was a vice president for research development at Arizona State University, and held leadership positions at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

A member of the board for the ISS National Laboratory and chair of the Space Telescope Science Institute Council, Cantwell is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School (MBA, 2003); the University of California, Berkeley (Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, 1992); and the University of Chicago (BA, Human Behavior 1976).

“Elizabeth Cantwell will be an innovative new president for Utah State University building on the already strong research excellence and statewide service model,” Church said. “Our board was excited to hear her vision for the land grant university mission and the bridges which can be built with students from all backgrounds. We are also impressed with her outstanding academic and leadership credentials.”

Photo by Levi Sim
Review overview
  • Vincent Saunders, USU 81 June 30, 2023

    One comment,… why the heck did this take so long? This process has held up not only many endeavors on campus but also the hiring of the next Athletic Director which in today’s world of jet-speed athletics puts all of USU athletic teams at a disadvantage to its conference mates and things like recruiting and scheduling as well as lobbying the national organizations, especially in the major revenue producing sports which often provide funding for minor sports through general university branding and identification of those who may be motivated by this window to the university to give. As they say, a high tide raises all boats, but that is tough when the ships rudder is not manned by one with authority to make binding decisions. Interim AD Jerry Bovee has done a nice job but I believe he would like some certainty as well. As the song from the 90’s said, will he stay or will he go.

    When I inquired why the Board of Higher Education had not acted in a more swift manner, I was informed that they are all “busy people” and there was “no need to hurry.” I would say that if they are too busy to perform the requirements of their position, then perhaps they should resign so that more available people could fulfill the requirements of the job. In fact, there was a great need to get started and fill this position, not only so the new President could begin the planning for their administration but also so that the Athletic Department could receive or confirm their new leader sooner than later and begin to implement their vision for Aggie Athletics, no small matter with the current state of student athletes in today’s athletic environment and landscape.

    I welcome President Cantwell to her new role as the 17th President of Utah State University. I also wish to thank Dr. Noelle Cockett for her years of service and for the work she will continue to do as a faculty member at Utah State. Now if we can get on with the confirmation of a new Athletic Director, hopefully before fall practices for football begin, then everyone can quit worrying about the swinging sword of Damocles which seems to always be just above someones neck in athletics,