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.
Internationally acclaimed author Mohsin Hamid to speak at Connecticut College
Bestselling author Mohsin Hamid will give a talk on his latest work, Exit West, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at Palmer Auditorium, followed by a book signing.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Hamid’s award-winning novels have been adapted for the cinema, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and translated into more than 30 languages. His essays and short stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The New Yorker among others. Exit West was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Exit West explores various themes of immigration: deciding when it is time to leave, the heartache of leaving family behind and the experience of arriving in a new country that is not welcoming to immigrants. Readers follow the story of Saeed and Nadia, two young people who flee a country on the brink of civil war, who journey through Europe and settle in North America, each responding in different ways to their new surroundings. The book’s themes have significant relevance today, when approximately 68.5 million people around the world who have been forcibly displaced, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
This event is a collaboration between One Book One Region of Eastern Connecticut (now in its 16th year) and Connecticut College. For the past three years, One Book One Region and Connecticut College have partnered to bring community members and the college community together to discuss ideas, broaden appreciation of reading and break down barriers among people. In addition to this year's selection of Exit West, previous summer read choices were Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
One Book One Region is made possible through a grant awarded to Connecticut College by Connecticut Humanities, a non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment of the Humanities. Other partners include Connecticut College’s Office of the President, Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, Libraries of Eastern CT and Start Fresh New London. Bank Square Books arranged for the purchase of Exit West for the Class of 2022 and their advisers, and will have copies available for purchase at the book signing.