Five Exceptional Leaders
2015–Present: Jason Perry, J.D.
Jason P. Perry is the Vice President for Government Relations at the University of Utah and has served in this capacity since January of 2011. In addition to this role, he began serving as Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics on July 1, 2015.
Prior to his tenure at the U, Jason served as the Chief of Staff to Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert. Jason helped the Governor successfully navigate two challenging budget cycles and his first legislative session as well as achieving a landslide victory in the November 2010 election.
A graduate of the S.J. Quinney College of Law at The University of Utah, Jason began his career working for the state Attorney General. A passionate advocate for protecting children, Jason helped launch the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce and received the FBI Director’s Award for distinguished service to the law enforcement community. He also served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Following his service in the Attorney General’s office, Jason became an Administrative Judge at the state Department of Commerce where he quickly rose to the level of deputy director. While serving in this capacity, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. appointed Jason to serve as the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, a cabinet level position. During his time at the helm of GOED he was instrumental in the recruitment and expansion of companies that bolstered the Utah economy and helped the state receive numerous national accolades including one of the Most Business Friendly States, Most Dynamic Economy, and Best Managed State.
Jason makes his home in Salt Lake City with his wife Mary Catherine and their four children.
2005–2015: Kirk Jowers, J.D.
The Hinckley Institute of Politics expanded significantly during the tenure of its fourth director, Kirk L. Jowers. Under his leadership, the Institute created a global internship program that reaches more than 60 countries, now offers internships to more than 350 students annually, and grew from hosting 35 forums in 2005 to a record-breaking 116 forums in 2014.
While at the University of Utah, Jowers also served as the Director of Federal Relations, Chief Advisor to the Office of Global Engagement, and an Associate Professor of Political Science. In addition, he was a partner in the Washington, DC, law firm of Caplin & Drysdale’s Political Law practice. Jowers served on more than a dozen boards and committees, including as a member of Governor Gary Herbert’s Advisory Team and founding member, and Executive Committee member, of Count My Vote. He previously served as Chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Strengthening Utah’s Democracy, a Member of the Utah Constitutional Revision Commission, and Chairman and General Counsel of Governor Mitt Romney’s Commonwealth PACs.
Jowers has provided legal and political advice to state and national political parties, more than 30 congressional and gubernatorial candidates, Fortune 500 corporations, non-profit organizations including the NAACP, and five presidential campaigns. Described by The Salt Lake Tribune as the “most quoted man in Utah,” he has been a frequent media commentator and lecturer on politics, policy matters, campaign finance laws, government ethics, and the First Amendment, and is the author of several publications. He is a graduate of the University of Utah and Harvard Law School and is the 2007 recipient of the University of Utah’s Par Excellence Award.
Kirk is married to Kristen Jowers and has five children. Following his time at the Hinckley Institute, he serves as Vice President of Corporate Relations at doTERRA International.
1985–2003: Ted Wilson, M.Ed.
Former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson headed the Hinckley Institute for nearly two decades. As Director, Wilson led by example as he encouraged students to participate in local politics. He engaged students in international humanitarian work during 10 expeditions to India. During these visits, students met with the Dalai Lama and participated in the construction of housing for Tibetan refugees in Bir, a community hall in Leh Ladhk, and a school in Kotwara.
Wilson’s own political service began in 1973 when he was appointed Chief of Staff to Utah Congressman Wayne Owens. From there, he directed the Department of Social Services in Salt Lake County and was elected Mayor of Salt Lake City in 1975, where he served until he became the Director of the Hinckley Institute in 1985. As Mayor, Wilson is best known for reconstructing the Salt Lake International Airport, expanding the parks department to provide more green space, rebuilding the city sewage treatment plant and improving the water system, and passing landmark historical and foothill preservation ordinances. Drawn to campaigns, Wilson ran against Orrin Hatch for the Senate in 1982 and was the Democratic candidate for Governor of the State of Utah in 1988.
Outside of politics, Wilson has a great love of mountaineering; he has climbed peaks around the world from the Alps to the Andes, established three climbing schools, and he received the Department of the Interior Valor Award in 1967 for his role in a rescue on the North Face of the Grand Teton.
Wilson graduated from the University of Utah in 1964 with a B.S. in Political Science; he received an M.Ed. from the University of Washington in 1969 and an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Salt Lake City’s Westminster College in 1983. Since retiring from the Hinckley Institute in 2003, Wilson remains a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Utah. He was a founder of The Exoro Group, a public affairs firm specializing in public policy and strategic communications.
Wilson has five children from his previous marriage to Kathryn Carling. He is married to former Salt Lake Tribune columnist Holly Mullen and is stepfather to her two children.
1975–1985: R.J. Snow, Ph.D.
R.J. Snow embodied the Hinckley Institute’s mission of civic engagement in every sense. He was a beloved leader at the University of Utah for more than a decade. He began his work there in 1971 as Assistant to President David P. Gardner, and when he took up the post of Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, he simultaneously served as Vice President for University Relations and as Associate Professor of Political Science.
After leaving the Hinckley Institute in 1985, Snow worked as President of the Jacobsen Company, a parent company to Jacobsen Construction. In 1987, he and his family accepted a call to preside over the South Africa Johannesburg Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for three years. Snow and his wife later served another mission during the reconstruction of the LDS Nauvoo Temple as Directors of Public Affairs and as Manager of Nauvoo Restoration Inc.
In addition to his work at the University of Utah, Snow is celebrated for his achievements at Brigham Young University; beginning in 1990, he served as Student Life Vice President, Advancement Vice President, Director of the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies in Israel, Professor of Political Science, and Faculty Advisor for the BYU Washington Seminar program. He also served on the Dixie State College Board of Trustees. He was committed to his community and served on dozens of committees, government commissions, and boards.
Snow graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Utah, earned a master's and doctoral degree at Northwestern University, and completed postdoctoral work at the University of Oregon and at Harvard.
He passed away suddenly in a car crash in Provo, Utah, at the age of 68. He was married to Marilyn Snow and had four children and several grandchildren.
1965–1975: J.D. Williams, Ph.D.
As the Hinckley Institute’s first director, J.D. Williams transformed Robert H. Hinckley’s dream of “every student a politician” into an inspiring reality. He led numerous forums, debates, and seminars with renowned political figures, and he created the first opportunities for students to complete internships and study abroad.
After Williams’ passing, Hinckley Institute Director Kirk Jowers said, “The political landscape of our state and nation will echo with J.D.’s fervor and zeal for generations as thousands of his students on the left and right fulfill his vision of passionate public service and devotion to our founding constitutional principles.”
A native of Salt Lake City, Williams graduated from Stanford University, worked at the Library of Congress, and completed a two-year fellowship at Harvard University before joining the University of Utah Political Science faculty. As a professor, he took special interest in the success of each student; he mentored several students who went on to serve in public office, including Karl Rove, Pat Shea, and Rob Bishop. Williams taught at the University of Utah for 40 years, retiring in 1992.
Williams was a frequent political commentator and never shied from expressing bold opinions; while he promoted bipartisanship at the Hinckley Institute, it was said after his passing that “liberals loved him as the gadfly who delighted in stinging the Republicans” and “conservatives sometimes loathed him, but they could dismiss him as a voice in the wilderness.” Williams called for President Nixon’s resignation and President Reagan’s impeachment; when Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy spoke at the University of Utah, Williams famously “rose from the audience and called him one of the three most despicable men in history.”
And yet, Williams is remembered for the great influence he had in transforming the University of Utah’s brightest students into committed, creative public servants. He believed all Americans should engage in politics, and he ran for public office himself, although his bids to the U.S. Senate and Utah House of Representatives were unsuccessful.
J.D. Williams was married to Barbara Wright Williams and had four children and several grandchildren. He passed away in 2007 at age 81.