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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

2 new university presidents with a degree of separation: State board picks non-academic to head ISU

Kevin Satterlee (Idaho State Journal)
Kevin Satterlee (Idaho State Journal)

Idaho’s state Board of Education has named five finalists to be the next president of Boise State University, and all are academics with Ph.D degrees.

That might seem like a given, but the board’s recent pick to be the new president of Idaho State University in Pocatello doesn’t fit that description – Kevin Satterlee is an attorney, a graduate of the University of Idaho College of Law, who most recently has been chief operating officer, vice president and special counsel at BSU, and previously served as the deputy attorney general for Office of the State Board of Education.

Satterlee, who starts June 18, will be paid $370,000 a year.

A law degree – a J.D., or Juris Doctor – has been declared by the American Bar Association to be a “terminal degree” and equivalent to a doctorate for purposes of practicing law or teaching law. However, it is still possible to earn a Ph.D in law – and college professors who teach subjects other than law typically have such degrees. And holders of J.D. degrees are not referred to as “doctor.”

Satterlee has only the J.D. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Boise State.

He’s taught several law-related classes at BSU and the U of I as an adjunct professor.

“I have a lot of experience in higher education and in the system, and one of the things that I have mentioned to people is that I understand and very much appreciate the role that the faculty play and I know that my job as president is to make it easier for the faculty to do what they do,” Satterlee said. “I haven’t been in the classroom in the same way they have, but I have so much respect for what they do, and my role as the president will be to support that in every way I can.”

Meanwhile, the state board’s recent pick for the new president of Lewis-Clark State College is Cynthia Pemberton, who has worked in higher education for more than 30 years, most recently as vice president for academic affairs at Colorado Mesa University; she holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Portland State University. Pemberton, a former Fulbright scholar, also holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from Willamette University and a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Southern Oregon College; she has taught and done extensive academic research, and is the author of numerous publications including two books. 

Pemberton, who starts July 1, will be paid $225,000 a year – $145,000 a year less than Satterlee. You can read my full Sunday column here at

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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