Michael O. Leavitt, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, is giving his collection containing many of his notes, papers, artifacts and memorabilia to Southern Utah University.
“This is extraordinary news,” SUU President Steve Bennion announced at the SUU Homecoming 2005 Luncheon. “The Leavitt Collection will be a tremendous addition to the resources of the University, the state of Utah, and the nation. His legacy as a public leader is remarkable.”
Secretary Leavitt, native and former governor of Utah, and beloved son of Cedar City, is returning to his roots as his professional belongings move back to the place of his childhood beginnings. Leavitt graduated from then-Southern Utah State College in 1978 with a degree in Business Technology, and has said on more than one occasion that he would put the training he received at SUU up against anyone’s from any other institution.
“SUU and Cedar City were the places that made the most sense, in both my mind and heart, for this collection to reside,” Leavitt said. “It is where my roots are. It is where my former professors, classmates, family members and neighbors are. I’m so pleased and genuinely excited about this project.”
The SUU Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service and the Gerald R. Sherratt Library will collaborate to process and display the Leavitt Collection in a specially-designed room on the Garden Level of the Sherratt Library, where the
Collection will be protected and cared for, and provide important access for students and scholars to these valuable materials. Under the direction of the Dean of Library Services, Dr. Diana Graff, the Special Collections staff and student interns will carefully process, protect, and preserve these unique papers and artifacts. The process will also include input and participation from Secretary Leavitt and his family. The Center was named after Leavitt at SUU’s 2004 Commencement.
“This collection from an outstanding public leader will be of great benefit to the state and SUU,” noted SUU Trustee Chair, Dwayne Nielson.
The Collection is expected to include private notes, correspondence and memoirs of Leavitt’s; records of official documents while he was governor of Utah as well as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2003-04); and details and souvenirs from the work he executed during several political campaigns. Also, numerous representations will be part of the Collection, including relics from the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Grand Staircase development, and the I-15 construction project, as well as some of Leavitt’s personal endeavors.
“The collection is a magnificent addition to our library,” stated Graff. “Michael Leavitt is a brilliant man and his contributions to our state and the University are far-reaching. We are indeed honored to have his papers and collection here. And what’s particularly exciting is that this is an ongoing, dynamic exhibit, as Secretary Leavitt will continue to acquire pieces that will likely eventually go into the collection.”
Dr. Rodney Decker, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Director of the Leavitt Center, is exhilarated with these new developments: “It was wonderful to meet with Secretary Leavitt and discuss the collection and his thoughts regarding the mission of the Leavitt Center. With the increasing number of people choosing to attend Southern Utah University, the Leavitt Center will be central to preparing students from every discipline – as leaders, citizens, volunteers, and researchers. It is clear that policy and politics pervade every domain of life.”
All of the components of the Collection that can be digitized, will be. The University will continue to work with Leavitt representatives and the State of Utah Archives to include state and federally-owned material in the Leavitt Collection.
“Words fall short in describing the importance and impact of this donation to the University,” Bennion said. “We are both pleased and privileged that Secretary Leavitt has chosen to place his papers and mementos here which symbolize a most impressive legacy of public service and leadership. Michael is a great friend of this institution; an honorable man of integrity and vision; and he is a marvelous human being.”
The work on this valuable and intriguing project will begin immediately. The exhibit is expected to be open to the public late next Spring 2006 semester. Until then, updates will be issued on the project’s progress.
Through its more than 100-year history, Southern Utah University has evolved from a teacher training school into its current role as a comprehensive, regional university to 6,000 students from across the globe. It serves the southern region of Utah and contiguous counties in surrounding states with undergraduate and graduate programs in six colleges. People of the region look to the University for outreach services, culture, economic and business development, higher learning, regional history, public affairs, major academic specialties, and significant entertainment and recreation. Accentuated by the notable, economic value of its services, SUU's hallmark is its quality staff, faculty and academics.