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David W. Pershing


A higher education leader and noted chemical engineering scholar, David W. Pershing, PhD, served as the 15th president of the University of Utah. Pershing’s presidential initiatives focused on improving retention and graduation rates, supporting new interdisciplinary research efforts, increasing diversity and sustainability efforts, and expanding research and academic facilities.

During Pershing’s tenure, research funding grew to over $400 million annually. Scholarships at the U nearly doubled, and the retention rate reached nearly 90 percent for first- to second-year students. Pershing oversaw the conclusion of the U’s Together We Reach campaign, which raised $1.65 billion toward scholarships, research efforts, new and upgraded campus facilities. More than 30 buildings were constructed during his presidency, including the Lassonde Studios living-learning center, the Carolyn and Kem Gardner Commons building, the S.J. Quinney College of Law building and the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex. Pershing oversaw the opening of the U’s Asia Campus in Incheon, South Korea, and guided the U’s transition into the Pac-12 athletic conference.

Pershing earned a BS in chemical engineering from Purdue and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Arizona. He joined the U faculty in 1977, then went on to serve as associate dean of the graduate school and dean of the college of engineering. While in this latter role, Pershing was a driving force behind the Utah Engineering and Computer Science Initiative, a major funding initiative that has more than doubled the number of engineering and computer science graduates from Utah’s higher education system. Pershing then served as senior vice president for academic affairs before his appointment as president. He remains on faculty at the U and holds an appointment as distinguished professor of chemical engineering.