A top-quality university begins with top-quality administrators who understand the value of education and put their personal interests aside to accomplish what is best for faculty, staff and students.
The University of Idaho Board of Regents voted unanimously Wednesday to appoint Dean of the College of Law Don Burnett interim president of UI. Burnett will take over as president June 1, as President M. Duane Nellis starts his new position as president of Texas Tech University June 15.
Burnett’s background ensures he will bring leadership and professionalism to his new position. He has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and law degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia, and also served as dean of the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville. Burnett has been dean of the UI College of Law since 2002, which makes him UI’s longest-serving dean.
Although his educational and professional career is impressive, Burnett also has a personal interest invested in UI. Burnett was born in Pocatello and his parents and wife are former Vandals. He served on the Idaho Court of Appeals, which contributes to his understanding of the state.
As a dean who has served under five UI presidents, Burnett has been exposed to a variety of leadership styles and ideas. His efforts in establishing a second and third-year law school program in Boise show he is capable of envisioning and completing long-term goals for the university.
Burnett understands the traditions and history of UI and will serve the university well as interim president. His familiarity with university functions should ensure a seamless transition between Nellis and him in June. But even though an interim president has been appointed, UI should not lose sight of its need for a permanent president.
Burnett said he will not return as dean of the college of law once his interim presidency is over. As interim president, he is also not a candidate for the presidency. This means UI has two crucial roles it needs to fill on campus, and the comfort we feel in establishing an interim president should not make us lax in the search for a new president and dean.
But, for now, the university is in good hands.