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Remembering Ted Wilson

The University of Utah is mourning the loss of Ted Wilson, teacher and mentor to generations of Hinckley Institute of Politics interns and politicians alike.

Wilson, died on Thursday, April 11, at 84. A lifelong Democrat, Wilson was elected to the first of three terms as Salt Lake City’s mayor in 1975. He left mid-term in 1985 to become the director of the university’s Hinckley Institute.

“Ted was an inspirational leader, mentor and educator,” said Taylor Randall, university president. “He made an indelible impact on Salt Lake City, the University of Utah and generations of our students.”

Born in Salt Lake City, Wilson grew up listening to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats. After graduating from South High School, Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the U. and a master’s degree in education from the University of Washington. Wilson taught economics at Skyline High School and worked as a Grand Teton National Park ranger. In 1982, he ran for U.S. Senate against then-Sen. Orrin Hatch, and in 1988 for Utah’s governor, against Norm Bangerter.

During 18 years at the Hinckley Institute—1985 to 2003—Wilson led the institute through a period of critical growth. Internship opportunities expanded during his term, and he laid the groundwork for Hinckley’s global internship program by leading dozens of students on civic learning expeditions to India. He also secured vital scholarships for deserving students, founded the student-run Hinckley Journal of Politics and found innovative ways to broadcast and share Hinckley forums.

Hinckley Institute Director Jason Perry called Wilson a “transformative leader.” His leadership left a lasting legacy for thousands of political science and public policy students, Perry said.

Wilson embodied Hinckley’s mission of encouraging students to be civically engaged and practiced what he preached—running for office and becoming a community leader, even in retirement. After retiring from the Institute, he served as director of the Utah Rivers Council, as an environmental advisor to Gov. Gary Herbert and as director of the Utah Clean Air Partnership.

“He exemplified the importance of civic engagement and proved you can have tough debates with those on the other side of the aisle and do it in a way that garners respect instead of contempt,” Perry said.