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‘DAWN OF NEW DAY’: State Board names Boise State’s Satterlee as next ISU president

April 6, 2018 GMT

Kevin Satterlee talks to the audience at his first address as Idaho State University’s new president on Thursday at the Pond Student Union on ISU’s Pocatello campus.Doug Lindley/Idaho State Journal

By Shelbie Harris, sharris@journalnet.com

POCATELLO — The State Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday to name Kevin Satterlee as the next president of Idaho State University.

Satterlee will officially take the helm as ISU’s 13th president in June. He’s currently the chief operating officer, vice president and special counsel at Boise State University.

“I pledge to all of Idaho State University — its students, faculty, staff, alumni, supporters, donors and friends — that I will devote myself to the success of this university,” Satterlee said on Thursday. “I promised first and foremost that I would come here to build relationships. I will honor that promise.”

Satterlee was the first of five ISU president finalists to host open forums on the university’s campuses in February. During his campus visits, Satterlee said the “potential at ISU is fantastic,” adding that the school can “become unstoppable” if “everybody is working in unison and we’re playing to our strengths.”

Satterlee reaffirmed his previous statements during his first address as ISU’s incoming president on Thursday inside the lounge of the Pond Student Union on the Pocatello campus.

“I applied here because I want to be your partner,” Satterlee said to the approximately 200 people who attended the address. “And I want this university to be Pocatello’s partner. I hope that we can come together, not from the top down, but truly come together and see the dawn of a new day. A day where we together build. Where we together grow. A future where I work daily with the faculty so that we succeed and prosper. It starts here on this campus and it spreads to our branch campuses throughout the state.”

In his first 90 days, Satterlee said his approach will be to listen and learn. The ability to listen is a trait that State Board member Richard Westerberg — who chaired the ISU president search process — said Satterlee definitely possesses.

“Mr. Satterlee has a unique ability to see vision clearly and to be able to articulate that vision,” Westerberg added. “He is an innovator and he’s a great communicator. The part I like most about Mr. Satterlee isn’t necessarily his ability to articulate, it’s his unique skill at listening. He’s an exceptional listener. He listens to understand, to learn, which leads him to the ability to be very open and very transparent. It also leads to his unique ability to be very inclusive in his leadership style and I think that’s exactly what Idaho State University needs.”

Satterlee said he has no immediate action plan for ISU aside from strengthening connections among the school’s many constituent groups.

“I’m here to build relationships,” Satterlee said. “I am not immediately going to go into details about doing this or that because the reality is if I did that then I wasn’t coming here to listen or learn.”

A fourth-generation Idahoan and the first in his family to graduate college, Satterlee has served Boise State University as its chief operating officer since 2015 and as vice president since 2010. He has served in a variety of other positions at BSU since being hired by the school in 2001.

Prior to joining BSU, Satterlee was a deputy attorney general in the Idaho Attorney General’s Office for six years. While there, he was lead counsel to the State Board of Education, State Board of Pharmacy, State Board of Nursing and the State Liquor Dispensary.

Because of his unique relationships and historical knowledge, Satterlee serves as special counsel at BSU on issues related to the State Board of Education, legislative and policy issues, athletic department issues, and institutional compliance.

Satterlee’s prior relationships have been an item of contention, however, with some calling into question whether his close ties to the State Board of Education and BSU could impact his ability to champion ISU.

When asked on Thursday where his loyalties would lie, Satterlee told the Journal that his sole allegiance is to ISU.

“I am this university’s president,” Satterlee said. “I know how to zealously represent the interests of someone I am representing. As the president, I am the chief representative. This institution will be my sole allegiance.”

Jessica Sargent, the president of the Associated Students of Idaho State University, said she has no doubts that Satterlee will be loyal to ISU.

“I think as soon as he stepped on that stage he switched from a Bronco to a Bengal,” Sargent said after Satterlee’s Thursday address.

Several elected officials attended Satterlee’s introductory address, including state Sen. Mark Nye, D-Pocatello, who presented Satterlee with an orange tie and showed the newly appointed president how to say the words, “Go Bengals.”

“I think the board made a great choice,” Nye said. “He’s well thought of and well spoken for and I think he will really uplift our town and this school.”

Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad said about Satterlee, “I’m excited about having him in town. I’m really excited because you have a mayor that is very engaged and a new university president who says he is very excited about being engaged in the community. I really look forward to working with Kevin and spearheading some leadership from both entities moving forward.”

Bannock County Commissioner Terrel “Ned” Tovey said he will look past Satterlee’s alma mater — University of Idaho where the incoming president received his law degree — and previous employer BSU and welcome Satterlee and his wife, Margaret, to the Pocatello community.

A nationwide search to replace current ISU President Arthur Vailas began in October 2017. Vailas announced in August 2017 that he planned to retire from ISU in June 2018 after serving nearly 12 years as the school’s president.

Satterlee’s first day on the job at ISU will be June 18. He’ll earn an annual salary of $370,000.

“Open communication, open dialogue and transparency will be hallmarks of this administration,” Satterlee said. “A steadfast commitment to empathy for the needs of our students coupled with strong and deep relationships within our community, those will be hallmarks of this administration.”

He continued, “The time is now. It is time for this state to hear this Bengal roar.”