Campus Life

Former USU President George Emert Passes Away

Former USU President George H. Emert with his wife Billie.

Former Utah State University President George H. Emert passed away on Wednesday, March 21. He was 79.

Emert’s tenure as USU’s 13th president lasted for more than eight years, beginning on July 1, 1992, and ending with his retirement on Dec. 31, 2000. 

“He was a dedicated Aggie who was a dynamic leader,” current USU President Noelle Cockett said. “Throughout George’s administration, we all benefited from his ability to identify new opportunities to grow Utah State University and further our land grant mission. He will be missed by the Aggie family.”  

During Emert’s presidency, scholarships at USU rose from $6 million to $29 million, while the endowment was raised from $7 million to nearly $80 million. Contracts and grants to USU also increased from $89 million to more than $140 million, and student enrollment went from 17,000 students to nearly 21,000.

Emert also aided in the creation of 47 alumni chapters, establishing at least one in every county of the state of Utah, as well as five other states and four countries. 

Emert’s tenure saw the construction and renovation of numerous campus buildings, in addition to the creation of the American West Heritage Center in Wellsville. Other campus improvements included the construction of pedestrian tunnels, housing complexes and the acquisition of outdoor sculptures. 

A strong proponent of Aggies athletics, Emert oversaw the completion of the Stan Laub Indoor Training Center in 1998, and also helped begin renovations to Romney Stadium and the construction of new softball and soccer fields. The Utah State football team also won the first bowl game in school history, Las Vegas Bowl II, in 1993. 

Emert came to Utah State after serving as the executive vice president at Auburn University for nearly nine years. Prior to that appointment, Emert was a professor of biochemistry and served as the director of the Biomass Research Center at the University of Arkansas. 

Born on Dec. 15, 1938, in Sevier County, Tennessee, Emert was raised on a parcel of land farmed by his family dating back to the Revolutionary War, and attended school from kindergarten to 12th grade in a one-room schoolhouse.

Emert was a Vietnam War veteran who served two tours as a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces from 1963-66. A captain, Emert was awarded the Air Medal and a Bronze Star for his military service.

While overseas on furlough, Emert met his future wife, Billie, on a blind date in Okinawa. They were married two years later following Billie’s graduation from the University of Wyoming.

Emert earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology with minors in chemistry and math form the University of Colorado, then went on to complete a master’s degree in zoology at Colorado State University and a doctorate in biochemistry and nutrition from Virginia Tech.
He also worked as the director of biochemical technology for Gulf Oil Corporation and was an adjunct assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Kansas before joining the faculty at the University of Arkansas in 1979. 
After stepping down as president at USU in 2000, Emert went on a one-year transitional sabbatical before returning to Utah State University to teach classes in the College of Science for another year before leaving Logan.

In 2002, the 500-seat George and Billie Emert Auditorium was dedicated inside of the Eccles Science Learning Center. 

George and Billie Emert are the parents of four daughters.

You can download George Emet Resolutions at

Writer: Jeff Hunter (435) 797-1429,

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