Utah college president to lead Salisbury University

Dr. Charles Wight, most recently President of Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, has been named the new President of Salisbury University, replacing Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach, who will retire in June.

Dr. Charles Wight

The university this morning released a letter from Dr. Robert L. Caret, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, who made the announcement.

Wight, who has led Weber State since 2013, will assume the top SU position on July 1. He is expected to be on campus this month.

He was selected from a small pool of finalists recommended by a search and screening committee led by Regent D’Ana Johnson and including representatives from SU faculty, staff, students and alumni and members of the community.

At Weber State, Wight was known for “making college affordable and accessible, supporting diversity and inclusion, maintaining a beautiful and sustainable campus, improving student success and building strong and mutually beneficial relationships with the local community,” Caret said.

He was attracted to SU because the university’s students and graduates “are so highly successful.”

A native of Northern Virginia, Wight will have family nearby. His father, sister and their spouses live in Deale, Md., on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

Being president, he said, is “mostly about cultivating relationships, getting people excited about supporting students through their journey and celebrating their many successes along the way. That puts a smile on my face almost every day,” he said.

The most challenging part of the job is “remembering the thousands of names and face,” he said.

“Some people have brains that are wired for this, but unfortunately, it’s more challenging for me. I’m getting better at it, but I still must work hard and get plenty of help,” he said.

Following two years as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Colorado, Wight was appointed assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Utah in 1984.

He rose to associate professor in 1990 and professor in 1993.

From 1999 and 2012 at the University of Utah he was president of the Academic Senate, academic coordinator of Web-based instruction, associate dean of undergraduate instruction, assistant vice president of continuing education and associate vice president of academic affairs.

From 2009 to 2012, he was dean of the graduate school.

During his five years as president, he led a $164 million fundraising campaign, expanded financial aid, created the first LGBT Resource Center and named the first Chief Diversity Officer.

Student enrollment grew, and new academic and recreational facilities were constructed.

A graduate of the University of Virginia, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in 1977 and doctorate at Caltech in 1982.

He has continued to research and is the author or co-author of more than 170 academic papers.

Teaching, he said in an interview provided by SU, was exciting for him, but he moved to administration “to be able to make a positive difference in the lives of a larger number of students.”

He leads by “setting direction at a high level and empowering people to implement their own strategies,” Wight said.

“A long time ago, someone asked me a similar question, and I responded, ‘My definition of staff excellence is when someone brings me the solution to a problem I didn’t know I had yet,’” he said.

He has been married to Victoria Rasmussen nearly 10 years and is the father of three grown daughters from his first marriage.

His wife is an educator, and spent many years assisting faculty and K-12 teachers to incorporate technology into their teaching practices.

While committing time to “supporting me as president at Weber State, Victoria has maintained her commitment to educating with tutoring and in serving on boards in the community,” he said.

A pilot, Wight enjoys flying his 1976 Bellanca Super Viking, but said when he moves to the Shore, he might trade it in for a boat.

An expert in the chemistry of explosives, Wight teaches an undergraduate honors course in chemistry and conducts science demonstrations at campus events at Weber.

The chemistry of explosives is an enormously complex field, he said.

“We were inspired by a couple of high-profile accidents to see if we could develop simplified computational models that could simulate large explosions and lead to improved safety of transporting and handling large quantities of energetic materials.

“The papers we published recently were wrapping up research done by students at the University of Utah, and that is now completed as far as my involvement is concerned,” Wight said.

During his presidency at Weber, the campus expanded. Student enrollment grew by 5.3 percent and more than $150 million in state, private and institutional funding supported the construction or renovation of eight new buildings for science, business, social science, library, student recreation and residence, health and engineering.

Weber State boasts the fastest growing computer science and engineering programs in Utah.

“I am both honored and delighted by the opportunity to serve as president of Salisbury University,” Wight said. “It’s a great institution, and I’m looking forward to joining the team in July.”

Also today, Caret thanked Dudley-Eshbach for “her excellent stewardship of Salisbury University over the past 18 years.”

“Students, faculty and staff will continue benefiting from the legacy of her presidency for generations to come,” he said.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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