Former SUU provost Terry Alger, a ‘friend and leader,’ dies

Dr. Terry Alger, who played a critical role as Southern Utah University provost during a pivotal time of growth for the college, died July 5. | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News

ST. GEORGE —  Dr. Terry Alger, former Southern Utah University provost and professor, died July 5, according to a statement from the school. He was 78.

“SUU has lost a friend and leader, and he will be missed,” Vice President for Alumni and Community Relations Mindy Benson said in the statement released Friday.

Dr. Terry Alger | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News

“Terry played a critical role as provost during a pivotal time of growth. He remained active on campus throughout his retirement, serving as a board member and past president of the SUU Emeriti organization. Our thoughts go out to his family.”

Alger committed his entire life to higher education, spending more than 30 years in the classroom and serving 18 years as SUU provost. He played a vital role in helping the college earn university status and established the first graduate program offerings.

His educational philosophy was to teach and mentor always. “Everything we do as a university should have the goal of facilitating teaching,” he once said. “All else is peripheral. Other programs and activities provide feeling and enjoyment to students. Undergraduate scholarship is one of the best aspects of teaching, along with applied research and service. Students give professors life and vision – they keep you going.”

When Alger was given the mandate to increase enrollment, he immediately recognized the need to effectively manage growth, according to the statement. By regulating academic programs as they developed, the college could provide a broader academic experience for both faculty and students, while attaining a more cost-effective institution that was able to flourish and grow.

Alger had an unfailing dedication to providing quality academic experiences for both students and faculty. One of his greatest strengths was his ability to build consensus across campus. He formalized the academic administrative structure which clarified roles and opened lines of communication between faculty and administrators. That flow of ideas and atmosphere of cooperation were characteristic during an era of growth and expansion at SUU.

Alger had a clear understanding of what was needed to increase the institution’s stature and recognized that by building upon the founding ideals and strengthening existing programs the college would achieve long term success and stability.

Born in Carbon County, Utah, Alger graduated from Carbon High School and attended West Point, where he played football and lacrosse. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree and doctorate in Chemistry from the University of Utah and completed post-doctorate work at the University of Illinois.

He taught chemistry at Utah State University and at the University of Utah. He also served the Utah System of Higher Education for nine years as the associate director and acting deputy commissioner for academic affairs.

In 1981, SUU President Orville Carnahan recruited Alger to be the university’s provost and vice president of academic affairs.

Terry and his late wife Kay Alger have two children, Mitch and Paula, who have both worked at SUU, and three grandchildren.

At the time of his death he was currently married to Janet Nakken Alger.

“Dr. Terry Alger made a deep and lasting impact on the institution and will be missed,” the statement reads.

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