A senior Utah State University official who once oversaw critical matters including fundraising and the school’s USTAR portfolio has voluntarily resigned, according to a USU official.
USU Spokesman Tim Vitale said Robert Behunin stepped down from his position as director of special advancement projects on Aug. 9 and is no longer with the university. Behunin left his previous position as vice president of advancement and commercialization in April as part of a “leadership change” made by USU President Stan Albrecht, according to Vitale.
Vitale said there was no disciplinary action against Behunin while he was either director or vice president.
In an email to The Herald Journal, Behunin did not elaborate on why he stepped down as vice president.
Since Albrecht — who announced his retirement earlier this year — won’t be appointing a new advancement and commercialization vice president before he leaves office, and two other administration officials have taken the duties of that position on an interim basis, Vitale said.
Neil Abercrombie, director of government relations, is splitting the vice president role with Dave Cowley, vice president of business and finance.
“The VP for advancement is someone who works really closely with the president,” Abercrombie said. “It’s probably not fair for Stan Albrecht to hire someone new when he’s retiring at the end of the year, and it’s probably not fair to that person to be hired and have a new president come in. So that’s why Stan Albrecht looked at it and said, ‘How about take a couple people off my team who can step in, in an interim role?’”
One of the responsibilities of the vice president for advancement and commercialization used to be the Utah Science Technology and Research portfolio — something that is now overseen by USU Provost Noelle Cockett.
USTAR, created by the Legislature in 2006, allows specially appointed faculty and others to conduct research and then fast-track those projects into the commercial applications.
Under Behunin’s tenure as vice president, USTAR came under heavy scrutiny by the Legislature for inflating its success and misreporting its progress. USTAR and USU officials have since made reforms and are pledging to adhere by them, while the Legislature passed new laws to keep USTAR’s reporting methods in line. USTAR is required to report annually on its productivity to lawmakers.
According to information provided by USU, Behunin served in a variety of senior administrative positions since at USU since at least 2003, including associate executive director of the USU Uintah Basin Campus and special assistant to the USU president.
Before coming to USU, Behunin served in administration at Southern Utah University in Cedar City.