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.
Dr. Mae Jemison to Discuss Race and Science at Connecticut College
Physician, engineer, dancer and the first woman of color in space, Dr. Mae Jemison, will give a talk and participate in a public discussion on science, race and power at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Palmer Auditorium, with a book signing to follow from 6:30-7 p.m. She will be joined by Dr. John Asher Johnson, a professor of astronomy at Harvard University. The event is free and open to the public.
Dr. Jemison leads 100 Year Starship (100YSS), a bold, far reaching nonprofit initiative to assure that capabilities exist for human travel beyond our solar system to another star within the next 100 years. She is building a multi-faceted global community to foster the cultural, scientific, social and technical commitment, support and financial framework to accomplish the 100YSS vision: An Inclusive, Audacious Journey that Transforms Life Here on Earth and Beyond. l00YSS programs include: annual public conference NEXUS- Pathway to the Stars: Footprints on Earth; the Canopus Awards for Excellence in Interstellar Writing; the l00YSS Crucibles-invitation only, transdisciplinary workshops to generate new disciplines to disrupt technological and systemic hurdles; and lO0YSS True Books to engage elementary students.
The l00YSS Way Research Institute seeks to generate the radical leaps that accelerate knowledge, technology, design, and thinking not just for space travel, but to enhance life on Earth. Dr. Jemison led the team that won the competitive, single awardee seed funding grant in February 2012 from DARPA, a premiere research agency. She is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine and is on the boards of directors of Kimberly-Clark, the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and the Texas Medical Center.
The first woman of color in the world to go into space, Dr. Jemison served six years as a NASA astronaut. Aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, STS-47 SpacelabJ mission in September 1992, she performed experiments in material science, life sciences and human adaptation to weightlessness. Prior to joining NASA, she was a general practice physician in Los Angeles and then the AREA Peace Corps Medical Officer in Sierra Leone and Liberia. She is an icon in the women’s rights and civil rights movements.
Johnson received his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, and his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. Johnson was named one of Astronomy Magazine’s “Ten Rising Stars” in astrophysics in 2013. His primary research focus is on the detection and characterization of planets outside our solar system, commonly known as exoplanets.
This talk and discussion serve as the keynote event for SYZYGY, the 2018-19 theme for collaborative programming between the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicities (CCSRE) and STEM Departments. It is co-sponsored by the CCSRE; the Offices of the President, the Dean of the College, and the Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion; CISLA-Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts; the SYKES Foundation; the Academic Resource Center; the Goodwin Niering Center; Quantitative Life Sciences; the Environmental Studies Program; Departments of Biology, Botany, Dance, Gender, Sexuality and Intersectionality Studies, Physics, Astronomy, and Geophysics.