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Retiring UETN CEO Ray Timothy Talks Growth, Digital Divide

In 10 years at the helm of the Utah Education and Telehealth Network, Timothy oversaw the consolidation of the state's separate networks for education and telehealth and a dramatic expansion of broadband.

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A pillar of Utah education over the past half-century is bowing out. Dr. Ray Timothy, a longtime educator who spent the past decade as the CEO and chief executive director of the Utah Education and Telehealth Network recently announced he is retiring.

The 68-year-old Timothy’s retirement from UETN will take effect on July 1, according to the organization's news release. UETN connects all education and telehealth, or virtual health-care coverage, through fiber-optic broadband Internet, supporting nearly 1 million elementary and college students and staff members, as well as 70 hospitals, clinics and rural health departments throughout the state. Over 10 years at UETN, Timothy oversaw exponential growth of the organization, including merging the Utah Education Network and Utah Telehealth Network in 2014 and navigating through the yearslong COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, during his tenure, UETN also became headquarters of the Northwest Regional Telehealth Resource Center, the organization said.

Timothy told Government Technology he is proud that he was able to take the state from partial connectivity in schools, colleges and health centers to being fully connected — save for one school district in an extremely rural area in the southern part of the state, which is currently in talks to approve working through tribal lands.

“It’s a real benefit to the state that all schools are connected, but it’s also incentive for telecommunications to provide service to homes and local businesses,” said Timothy, who admitted he never envisioned that he’d be leading a high-tech integration in his state. “I don’t know how it works, I just want it to work. I’ve always embraced technology and innovation. It’s a natural evolution of my career.”

During the process of setting up broadband connectivity for school districts, telecommunications companies would lay extra bundles of fiber which Timothy said could benefit communities and businesses, in addition to schools and health-care facilities.

The state, federal and private grant-funded UETN, which also operates public TV station KUEN on behalf of the Utah System of Higher Education, said in its news release that Timothy’s vision, leadership and work ethic helped catapult the organization to being one of the premier broadband networks for education and telehealth in the nation.

“He is recognized as an innovator by other state and national executives who often ask him how they can replicate Utah’s robust infrastructure,” the organization said of its outgoing CEO.

Timothy himself was humble about the accomplishments the organization achieved under his leadership.

“I think the thing I’m most proud of is the positive relationships we have with our customers. … We are trying to provide the best service possible and (the customers) recognize that and they speak out on our behalf,” he said. “I’m (also) extremely proud of my staff. I’ve never worked with such a good staff. They hold themselves accountable to make sure the products are top notch.”

According to the news release, Timothy also served as a mentor to staff at UETN, leading to several receiving graduate degrees and industry certifications to advance their professional development, based on his encouragement. He also led by example, serving on the board of the Schools, Health, Libraries, and Broadband (SHLB) Coalition.

Timothy has a bachelor's degree from the University of Utah, a master's from Brigham Young University and a doctorate from Utah State University, the latter of which he used to focus his research on curriculum and instructional supervision. Prior to joining UETN in 2012, Timothy taught elementary physical education and fifth grade before receiving an administrative license and then serving as principal and superintendent in both rural and urban school districts. It wasn't until the last decade of his 45-year career that he led UETN into a new era. But if UETN Board Chair and Utah State University's Academic Services VP Robert Wagner had his way, Timothy would be around for the foreseeable future.

“I wish he would agree to lead UETN for another 10 years,” Wagner said in a public statement.

But Timothy told GovTech he has no interest in extending his career. The lifelong Utah resident cited an anecdote from his time as an elementary school teacher, when a colleague of his announced her retirement after 40 years.

“That’s too long,” Timothy said with a chuckle, daunted by the thought of a 40-year teaching career back then. “And here I am in my 45th year now. I’m ready to retire.”

“I want to get to know my grandkids better. I want to focus more of my time doing community service and helping people. And I want to travel and see things I haven’t seen,” he added. “I have plans. I’m not just going to be sitting on the couch.”

Timothy said he will not be part of choosing a successor because a fresh set of eyes will need to pick the right candidate, but the UETN board has begun a nationwide search for the replacement.
Giovanni Albanese Jr. is a staff writer for the Center for Digital Education. He has covered business, politics, breaking news and professional soccer over his more than 15-year reporting career. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Salem State University in Massachusetts.