As students heard the notification ding on their phones and opened their emails to find news President Scott L. Wyatt would be leaving Southern Utah University, there seemed to be a universal feeling — sadness.
After seven and a half years of serving as Southern Utah University’s president, President Scott L Wyatt announced that he accepted a statewide position within the Utah System of Higher Education commissioner’s office.
In that email to students and faculty and staff, President Wyatt explained that he had been asked by Commissioner Dave Woolstenhulme and the Board of Higher Education “to design and implement a new unified statewide structure for all online degree programs offered by Utah’s eight colleges and universities.”
Beloved by SUU, President Wyatt spent a large majority of his time interacting directly with students. He was often spotted sporting school spirit at athletic events, applauding as a part of the Utah Shakespeare Festival audience, and strolling through campus on morning walks to greet students on their way to class.
Student Ana Soares, a senior at SUU, shared one of the most memorable experiences she had her first year at SUU.
“President Wyatt is such a nice man. When I was a freshman, I remember going to an ice cream social event at his house with my parents,” Soares said. “He wished me good luck, and it was really encouraging for me as a freshman going into criminal justice.”
President Wyatt later asked to get a picture with Ana and her parents, which was later posted on his Instagram in 2017. That simple act of talking with Soares and her parents not only made her feel at home her first year on campus, but has stuck with the student for the remaining three years she’s been at SUU.
SUU students adore President Wyatt, and he loves them in return, noting that the thing about his job he’ll miss most as university president is just that — the students.
“My relationship with some university administrators as an [undergraduate] shifted my view of the world and led me to be here in this job,” said President Wyatt. “It’s all about students. And what a privilege to spend my [career with them].”
Throughout his presidency, he never raised tuition, keeping his goals student-oriented. President Wyatt held power to raise tuition at the university above the required state mandate, although never chose to do so.
“I’m really thrilled that [student] fees are less now than when I started,” President Wyatt said.
President Wyatt accomplished other challenging projects as president, some of which were building the three-year bachelor’s degree, working on a partnership with Southwest Technical College and getting funding for the business building and the new academic building.
He also said he was proud of working with the Utah Shakespeare Festival and figuring out how to get enrollment numbers up when he first arrived at the university — numbers that grew from 8,000 to 13,000 within the seven and a half year span he spent as president.
President Wyatt’s favorite part of the job, however, was directly engaging and talking with students.
“If I could live out a dream, it would be to spend an hour every day with a student and sit in on a faculty member’s class. I love hearing students talk about their goals and working through them with them,” President Wyatt said.
Recalling one of his favorite memories as university president, President Wyatt brought up the massive campus-wide field trip — with around 4,500 people participating — that the university conducted in 2016 in celebration of the National Park Service.
“We took [students] to Bryce Canyon for the night. It was the first Thursday of the semester,” President Wyatt said. “I remember laying in my tent in the campground, listening to the students in the other tents laugh all night long. I remember thinking they didn’t know each other until this week, and now here they are having a great time. I went to sleep very content.”
To give back to students, President Wyatt auctioned off his parking space to SUU faculty, in which the funds raised were donated to scholarships. He and his wife, Kathy, even gave up their home to turn it into a childcare facility in 2020.
The legacy of authenticity President Wyatt established during his tenure is one that he hopes continues at SUU. Leading by example — as he did — he hopes that the university will continue to have a real, personal, caring environment.
“I hope that [SUU] continues to be [a university] where innovation is modeled and taught, not just taught,” he said. “We can’t tell students to be innovative, creative and adaptable without being innovative, creative and adaptable ourselves.”
To do this, President Wyatt offers this piece of advice:
“Learning and self-improvement occur very slowly. We need to keep working. The grand canyon took millennia for it to form, [with a] little pressure constantly.”
President Wyatt said that although he is excited for the challenge his new position will hold, he does have mixed emotions about the change.
“However, the outcomes of [this project] could be incredible. It could help everybody,” President Wyatt said.
His new job position will begin on August 15 and requires him to move further north in the state. However, President Wyatt says that he and his wife, Kathy, will continue to support SUU and plan to come back during Homecoming week to cheer on SUU athletic teams.
“I believe that SUU has always cared about their students more than other universities. I would hope that I tilted the world more so that way,” President Wyatt said.
Story by: Elizabeth Armstrong
Photos courtesy of @scottlwyatt on Instagram