Former Leavitt chief of staff appointed to USURF board

November 12, 2015 | HJNews

Former Gov. Michael Leavitt. Credits: Rich McKeown

A former chief of staff to former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt is the newest member of the Utah State University Research Foundation Board of Trustees.

Rich McKeown was appointed to the board by chairman Jeff Edwards, and had his first board meeting with USURF and USU officials Thursday.

In an interview with The Herald Journal on the Innovation Campus after the meeting, McKeown said his wealth of experience in government and health care make him qualified for the position. He admitted he’s still learning about USURF and its largest unit, the Space Dynamics Lab; and while he doesn’t have a science background, he joked he “likes the Star Wars movies.”

“As a lawyer and a businessman, I think I have experiences that are unique to being a member of the board of trustees,” McKeown said. “Much of the responsibilities that are given to trustees are that of oversight, business practice and recommendation, and I think I have some qualifications there to contribute. … Boards of trustees look for diversity of experience and position in order to enrich the conversation.”

McKeown, a University of Utah law school grad, chaired the Utah State Tax Commission and was chief of staff to Leavitt while he was governor. McKeown moved to Washington, D.C., in 2003 to serve as senior counselor and chief of staff at the Environmental Protection Agency when Leavitt was named administrator of the agency by President George W. Bush. When Leavitt was later appointed secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, McKeown served as chief of staff in that department.

Currently, he is CEO of Leavitt Partners — with former governor Leavitt — a health care intelligence business. McKeown leads a group that helps people understand and navigate value-driven health care, according to a USU news release.

“I think there is more coherence and overlap to things that I do than one might think,” McKeown said.

“I work in health care; there are remarkable challenges in health care relative to cyber security — that’s a component of interests here. There are more of those kinds of unique overlaps in terms of process and content than would be immediately apparent.”

McKeown said he’s already impressed with the operations of USURF under the director of its president, Scott Hinton, even though he has much to learn.

“I’m impressed with the quality of the people who are part of the board of trustees, I’m impressed with the quality of people who are employees who literally run this operation day-to-day, and I’m impressed with the quality of output that has ... built the brand of USURF,” McKeown said. “I’m excited to see what I can both learn about the things they do in more detail and contribute to their success.”

In a prepared statement, Hinton praised McKeown’s appointment to the board.

“The addition of Rich to the Research Foundation board of trustees will enable us to benefit from his recognized expertise in building alliances across disciplines,” Hinton said in a USU news release. “Coupled with his technical expertise, Rich promotes high standards for integrity while encouraging long-term value creation that will help fortify our business.”