Connecticut College selects Les Wong as interim president
The Connecticut College Board of Trustees has unanimously elected Leslie E. Wong, Ph.D., a nationally respected leader in higher education, to become interim president of Conn, effective July 1, 2023.
Wong will succeed Katherine Bergeron, whose nearly decade-long tenure as Conn’s 11th president concludes June 30. He will serve until the College’s 12th president is selected and assumes office.
Wong, a former president of San Francisco State University and Northern Michigan University and a former interim president of the University of Southern Colorado, has been a member of Conn’s Board of Trustees since 2019. He will resign his role as a recently re-elected trustee and serve on the Board in an ex officio capacity, as is customary, until the 12th president is appointed.
In his announcement to the Conn community, Debo P. Adegbile ’91, chair of the College’s Board of Trustees, said, “Les has deep experience in higher education leadership and a strong understanding of Connecticut College through his Board of Trustees service and committee-related work. As a member of the Board of Trustees since 2019, Les is well known to many in the Conn community. His commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion has been evident throughout his academic career. Due to his extensive presidential leadership experience and knowledge of Connecticut College, Les is uniquely positioned to assume this important role.”
In his initial message to the Conn community, Wong said, “It is such an honor to be named interim president of Connecticut College. Since I joined the Board in 2019, the faculty, staff, students, administrators and alumni have shown me the resolve, the persistence and the spirit that are needed for a great college to confront whatever comes before it.”
He added, “As a steward of this institution, I believe we have a tremendous opportunity at hand, particularly in executing our strategic plan, Building on Strength, which will guide me during my role as interim president. This role requires considerable listening and dialogue as well as a willingness to engage ideas and aspirations of everyone at Conn.”
As a member of the Board of Trustees since 2019, Wong has served on the Executive Committee, chaired the Faculty-Trustee Liaison Committee and served as vice chair of the Committee on Academic Affairs. He received his Ph.D. in educational psychology from Washington State University and previously served as president of San Francisco State University and Northern Michigan University for a combined total of 15 years. Before these roles, he served as vice president of Academic Affairs of Valley City State University and as interim president, provost and academic vice president of the University of Southern Colorado. He is married to Phyllis Michael Wong, who is the author of the award-winning non-fiction book We Kept Our Towns Going.
Wong, who identifies as a person of Mexican and Chinese ancestry, has served on the NCAA’s Task Force on Equity and Inclusion. He led a national effort to admit Mexican universities into Division II of the NCAA and since 1985 has worked closely with the State Department to promote U.S.-China relations as well as the well-being of Chinese Americans. He also led California’s statewide effort to expand Project Rebound, a social justice initiative that helps formerly incarcerated students to earn college degrees.
With Conn’s interim president position now filled, the Board of Trustees will turn its full attention to the search for the College’s 12th president. A 15-member search committee of trustees, faculty, staff and students plans by late June to select a national executive search firm that specializes in higher education. The firm’s first steps will include seeking input from a cross-section of senior administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and other friends and supporters of the College.
Classics and Theater departments present ‘Queens of Syria,” a documentary film, March 27
Yasmin Fedda’s documentary, “Queens of Syria,” to be shown at 7 p.m. in Silfen Auditorium, Bill Hall, on Monday, March 27, tells about a group of Syrian women who created an extraordinary modern retelling of Euripides’ play ‘The Trojan Women.’ The event is free and open to the public, and includes a 6:30 p.m. opening reception and a panel discussion to follow.
‘Queens of Syria’ is the story of fifty women from Syria, forced into exile in Jordan, who came together in Autumn 2013 to create and perform their own version of the timeless ancient Greek tragedy about the plight of women in war. The film captures an extraordinary moment of cross-cultural contact across millennia, in which women born in 20th-century Syria found a blazingly vivid mirror of their own experiences in the stories of a queen, princesses and ordinary women like them: uprooted, enslaved, and bereaved by the Trojan War.
The post-film discussion panel includes Ginny Anderson, assistant professor of theater; , visiting assistant professor of classics; and Ramzi Kaiss '19 of the College's Committee on Refugee Relief and Education.
When theater professor Anderson reached out to the director, Yasmin Fedda, to inquire about permission to access the film and share it with her Theater and Culture class and the broader community through the College, Fedda graciously and generously agreed to both in exchange for a donation to The White Helmets, the Syrian volunteer civil defense organization, to which Anderson contributed.
“If this screening provides even just a little more understanding into the lives of those fleeing Syria and other war-torn countries, into the lives of those seeking safety and community as refugees, then I'm very proud to take this small step at the College,” Anderson said.
In explaining the significance of showing ‘Queens of Syria’ on World Theatre Day, Anderson continued, “It was important to me that students learn about the work these Syrian refugee women were doing through theater. World Theatre Day felt like an appropriate time for it. We keep asking this question of "what can theater do", especially in times of crisis, and their work, as captured in this documentary, demonstrates how it can contribute to much needed intercultural understanding and greater empathy.”
Classics professor Papathanasopoulou also elaborated on the role of Greek tragedy, which she says “has proven inspirational and therapeutic for a number of people in recent years. In 2014, another group of Syrian women put on a performance of Sophocles’ Antigone, the story of a woman who in the aftermath of a war defies authority figures in order to bury her own brother. Veterans of war have found parallels between their experiences and those of the Greek heroes Ajax and Philoctetes in Sophocles’ plays, while many contemporary women fighting for what they believe identify with Antigone and other heroes in Greek tragedy."
Those interested in attending can indicate interest at the Facebook event page the organizers have created for “Queens of Syria.”