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Taylorsville Journal

Thousands of SLCC students leave with diplomas this spring, while their retiring school president departs with decades of memories

Jun 06, 2024 09:18AM ● By Carl Fauver

More than 3,000 SLCC students graduated May 3, including 1,429 first-generation college students. (

Some 3,169 Salt Lake Community College students received their diplomas last month, just one week after the ninth president of the 75-year-old, Taylorsville-based school was unanimously selected by the Utah Board of Higher Education.

Nearly half of this year’s graduates (1,429) were first-generation college students. According to an SLCC news release, they ranged in age from 16 to 67 – with more than 5% of them, 164, military veterans. Most of the grads earned degrees in general studies and general education programs, followed by business, nursing and psychology.

“At its best, college helps us understand ourselves, make sense of the world around us and challenges us to use our knowledge and skills to strengthen our communities,” said outgoing SLCC President Dr. Deneece Huftalin during the May 3 ceremony at West Valley City’s Maverik Center. “That is our goal at SLCC: inclusive and transformative education that strengthens the communities we serve through the success of our students. Looking out at this graduating class, I have never been more certain our future is in good hands.”  

Some in the graduation audience may have been wondering what Huftalin’s future holds, after she dedicated some 30 years to the school. She was presiding over her tenth commencement as president. 

In announcing her retirement last fall, Huftalin said in a statement, “I am incredibly proud of the journey we’ve undertaken together to strengthen student success, create a more inclusive environment and serve as a model for colleges nationwide in affordability, innovation, equity and commitment to mission.”

Before becoming SLCC’s eighth president in 2014, Huftalin was the school’s director of academic and career advising, dean of students, vice president of student services and interim president. She retires as the longest-serving female president in the Utah System of Higher Education.

Exactly one week before this year’s SLCC graduation ceremony, Dr. Gregory Peterson was named Huftalin’s successor.

“I’m humbled by the opportunity to serve as Salt Lake Community College’s next president, and I look forward to reinforcing SLCC’s commitment to providing educational pathways…that improve the lives of every member of our community,” Peterson said. “SLCC has an amazing future ahead. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of that journey.”

As a first-generation community college student in his own right, Peterson reports having a passion and commitment to the community college mission to provide access to and success for all students.

The new president – who officially assumes his duties July 1 – earned a bachelor’s degree (English) at Brigham Young University, a master’s degree (postsecondary, adult and continuing education) at Portland State University and his doctorate (educational administration) from the University of Texas.

In 2018, Peterson was appointed president of Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Arizona. He is recognized as launching the first community college Artificial Intelligence program in the nation and for working closely with industry partners and community leaders to strengthen workforce pipelines for students.

“SLCC's presidential search attracted a robust and multi-faceted pool of applicants that reflected strong alignment with the position profile and the attraction of Salt Lake City, the Utah System of Higher Education and the state of Utah,” said Utah Board of Higher Education Chair Amanda Covington. “As a visionary leader with a proven track record of success in community colleges and higher education, President Peterson is poised to lead SLCC into the future. The Board is confident, under his leadership the college and its students will thrive and continue to strengthen our community. We are delighted to welcome him to the Utah System of Higher Education.”

Salt Lake Community College is Utah’s largest two-year college, educating the state’s most diverse student body in eight fields of study, at eight locations and online. The majority of SLCC graduates transfer to four-year institutions. Thousands more are trained in direct-to-workforce programs. For more than 75 years, SLCC has provided Utahns with education and training in fields that contribute to the state’s economy and quality of life. λ

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