Utah State administrator named Idaho State’s next president

Robert Wagner, Utah State University’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, has been named Idaho State University’s next president. 

The State Board of Education appointed him at a special meeting Thursday before an audience of dozens of Idaho State staffers and students, journalists, and community leaders. 

“I’m so happy to be part of an undeniably special university, and I will work with you all to make it even more extraordinary,” Wagner said. 

Wagner addresses an audience of dozens in his first speech after being named ISU’s next president.

Wagner was selected from a field of more than 80 applicants, which was then whittled down to 12 semifinalists, and finally five finalists, including Lewis-Clark State College President Cynthia Pemberton and C. Shane Hunt, dean of Idaho State’s College of Business and a marketing professor. 

“We had an outstanding group of finalists,” board President Linda Clark said. “Dr. Wagner’s depth of leadership experience in various roles at a larger institution just 90 minutes south of ISU’s main campus and his vision for the institution moving forward helped make him the top candidate. 

Wagner will take over on Jan. 29 under a 2 1/2-year contract, and will be paid an annual salary of $420,000. 

He’ll be the university’s 14th leader, replacing Kevin Satterlee, who is retiring after five years at the helm. Thursday’s hire, Satterlee said, represents the “last piece of the puzzle” preceding his retirement.

Wagner and Satterlee shake hands.

“We have found a leader who values education as a public good for our society, who values our students and what education does for them, and that’s what we needed to do,” Satterlee said. “He is the right person to keep us moving forward.”

Wagner spent the last 16 years at Utah State, where he held a number of roles, overseeing student success, academic programming, fundraising, marketing and student recruiting and retention. He also helped develop the university’s first strategic plan in 20 years, and led its online education programs. 

In a speech held immediately after the meeting, Wagner thanked Satterlee for his contributions to the university, reflected on his own education journey, and expressed his commitment to Idaho State. 

“ISU will continue to be a student-centric university, finding innovative ways of supporting students and providing the highest caliber of education with a focus on affordability, relevance, and impact,” he said. 

Wagner watched Idaho State’s progress and accomplishments across “a very soft and close border between southern Idaho and northern Utah,” and said he wants to continue building on those successes. 

Wagner, who said he’s a “recruiter at heart,” wants the university’s enrollment to grow as Idaho continues to grow — matching the state’s changing demographics. That might mean reaching out to and serving more first-generation students, or at-risk or underserved groups, Wagner said. 

“The public good of education is its ability to transform lives,” he said. 

Wagner reflected on the role of education in his own life, including the challenges he faced while raising small children and earning his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. 

Wager asked his family to stand as he introduced them to the audience. His mother, wife, some of his children, and a granddaughter were present.

“My own experiences as a student instilled in me a compassion for every student who has embarked on the arduous, demanding, and rewarding journey of pursuing a college degree, “ he said. “During my career, I feel honored to have witnessed the grit and success of many students who achieved noble goals while conquering individually unique difficulties.”

Ultimately, Wagner said he hopes to support current and future Bengals on their path to a brighter future. 

“It is about students,” he said. “It is about focusing on them and making sure that as an institution, we’re helping them to make an impact with their education.”

Emma Watts, the president of the Associated Students of Idaho State University, said she was impressed by Wagner’s qualifications and commitment to students: “I think he’ll be a great leader.”

Board member Cindy Siddoway, an ISU alum and search committee co-chair, said she was confident in the board’s selection. 

“Dr. Wagner is a very sincere person,” she said. “He cares deeply about ISU, and its campus community. He’ll work hard to establish strong relationships with alumni and community leaders, and he will build on ISU’s recent momentum and be an outstanding leader and advocate for higher education in Idaho.

In the brief interim period between Satterlee’s retirement and Wagner’s arrival — from Jan. 1 to Jan. 28 — Idaho State vice president of operations Brian Sagendorf will serve as acting president.

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro reports from her hometown of Pocatello. Prior to joining EdNews, she taught English at Century High and was a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She has won state and regional journalism awards, and her work has appeared in newspapers throughout the West. Flandro has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and Spanish from the University of Montana, and a master’s degree in English from Idaho State University. You can email her at [email protected] or call or text her at (208) 317-4287.

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