Robert Winton Mendenhall is a pioneer of educational technology and
entrepreneurship best known as the former president of Western
Governors University (WGU).
1 Family and Church Life
2 Former President of Western Governors University
3 Experience and education
4 The Future of Higher Education
5 Awards and recognition
Family and Church Life
Mendenhall is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints. As a young man he served a two-year mission in the Mexico
Veracruz mission. He has served in multiple church leadership roles
including Bishop and Stake president. He is married to Kathleen White
and they have 7 children and 22 grandchildren.
Former President of Western Governors University
Dr. Mendenhall became president of
Western Governors University
Western Governors University in
1999, the same year the university enrolled its first students. WGU is
a private, non-profit, online university offering competency-based
undergraduate and graduate degrees in Business, Teacher Education,
Information Technology, and Health Professions, including Nursing. It
was founded in 1997 by a group of 19 western governors with the
mission to improve the quality and expand access to post-secondary
educational opportunities. Under Mendenhall's leadership, WGU grew
to a national university with more than 84,000 students and 91,100
In April 2016, Mendenhall stepped down as president and became WGU's
first President Emeritus. In March 2016, WGU's Board of Trustees
announced Scott D. Pulsipher as the new president.
In addition to his seventeen years as president, Dr. Mendenhall also
served on the WGU Board of Trustees, which is composed of educators,
industry leaders, and governors.
Discussing the university, Mendenhall said, "WGU was specifically
created as a new model for higher education, incorporating the use of
technology to expand access and reduce costs, while creating
competency-based degree programs to improve accountability for
Experience and education
Mendenhall has over 35 years of experience delivering technology-based
education. Prior to joining WGU, he was general manager of IBM's K-12
education division. He also served as executive vice president for
Jostens Learning Corporation.
From 1980 to 1992, he was a founder, president, and CEO (from 1987) of
Wicat Systems, Inc., a publicly traded company which was a leader in
providing computer-based curriculum, instructional management and
testing to schools, and technology-based training to government and
Mendenhall was a founding Board member of the Presidents' Forum, a
trustee of the Committee for Economic Development, and also served on
the NGA/ASTD Commission on Technology & Adult Learning, on IBM’s
Education Advisory Council, on the National Forum on 21st Century
Skills Education Advisory Board, and on the Technology Working Group
for the California Postsecondary Education Commission. Mendenhall is a
former member of the Board of the Department of Business and Economic
Development for the State of Utah.
Mendenhall received his bachelor's degree in University Studies and a
doctorate in Instructional Psychology and Technology from Brigham
Young University. On July 15, 2017, Dr. Mendenhall was awarded a
Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa by Western Governors
The Future of Higher Education
Mendenhall served on the Commission on the Future of Higher Education
at the request of U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. In
2006, the commission issued a report titled "A Test for Leadership:
Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education." The report was critical
of many aspects of higher education in the U.S. and offered
suggestions on how to improve the system. Commenting in the media,
Mendenhall stated: "I don't think it's about blame. [Our] report was
more negative than it needs to be about the academy, but not as
alarming as it needs to be in shining a light on the challenges in
American higher education."
On December 5, 2011, Mendenhall was one of several university
presidents, chancellors, and higher education representatives invited
to the White House by President Obama to discuss the cost of college
and improving education. In 2012, Mendenhall testified to the
United States Senate Higher Education Committee regarding innovations
in college affordability.
Awards and recognition
In 2010, Mendenhall was honored with the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in
Education for creating educational ideas that work and scaling them up
to improve student achievement. Utah Business Magazine named him
2010 CEO of the Year; the U.S. Distance Learning Association's (USDLA)
gave him its Award for Outstanding Leadership by an Individual in the
Field of Distance Learning. In 2011, Ernst & Young granted
Mendenhall the Utah regional award in its Entrepreneur of the Year
program in the Technology and Education category.
For his work in leading and developing WGU, Dr. Mendenhall was
selected by the Higher Education Policy Institute and Council for
Adult and Experiential Learning to receive the 2012 Virginia B. Smith
Innovative Leadership Award.
In 2016 he was the recipient of the Champions of E-Learning Award -
Heavy Lifter Award from Presidents’ Forum.
^ Academic Leadership
^ Board of Trustees
Robert Mendenhall - Statement to the Secretary of Education's
Commission on the Future of Higher Education, Third Meeting, February
2-3, 2006 (PDF)
^ Archived: Biography of
Robert Mendenhall - Commission Member of
Commission on the Future of Higher Education
Commission on the Future of Higher Education (PDF)
^ Robert Mendenhall :: In The Arena
^ Panel's Draft Report Calls for an Overhaul of Higher Education
Nationwide - New York Times
^ "WGU President Emeritus Dr.
Robert Mendenhall Awarded Top Honor by
Presidents' Forum". Western Governors University. 26 October 2016.
Retrieved 15 Sep