Penn State’s Nick Jones could be next University of Utah president

Penn State could lose a key administrator.

On Friday, the University of Utah announced three finalists for the post of president. One of those is Penn State Vice President and Provost Nick Jones.

“The University of Utah Presidential Search Committee has narrowed the applicant pool to these three highly qualified candidates and is honored to recommend them to the Board of Regents for its consideration in selecting a new leader for the university,” said Harris Simmons, that school’s search committee co-chair.

Penn State had little comment on the announcement.

“I can certainly say we have an outstanding leader in Provost Jones, but it would be inappropriate for me to comment further during such a process,” said Vice President of Strategic Communications Lawrence Lokman.

Jones will be at the Utah campus Wednesday along with the other two finalists — Thomas Katsouleas, University of Virginia provost, and Ruth Watkins, senior VP of Academic Affairs at Utah — meeting faculty, staff and student representatives, followed by an interview with the Board of Regents on Thursday. A date for an announcement has not been determined.

A New Zealand native with a background in civil engineering, Jones came to Penn State in 2013 from Johns Hopkins University after stints at the University of Illinois and California Institute of Technology.

As provost, Jones has been the university’s top academic leader and is second in command to President Eric Barron.

Jones was a leading voice in responding to several high-profile situations at Penn State, including the 2015 announcement of cybersecurity attacks on the colleges of engineering and liberal arts and the 2017 death of student Timothy Piazza following a fraternity pledge party.