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.
Legendary musical, ‘The Cradle Will Rock,’ at Tansill Theater March 3-5
As relevant today as it was when it debuted in 1937, “The Cradle Will Rock” electrifies the Tansill Theater stage, with performances Friday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m, Saturday, March 4, at 2 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, March 5, at 2 p.m. The renowned musical, a biting critique of unrestrained capitalism and income inequality, features musical styles that leap from classical to jazz to pop and capture a story as satirical as it is uplifting and empowering.
Director Ginny Anderson, assistant professor of theater at Connecticut College, says the musical is legendary in theater history. The original production, directed by Orson Welles for the Federal Theatre Project, was shut down by the WPA on its opening night, the theater padlocked and surrounded by security. But the cast and creative team, including director Orson Welles, famously marched 21 blocks north to another, empty theater. The actors' union prohibited them from "performing on stage," but they cleverly found a loophole and performed from within the audience instead, with only composer Marc Blitzstein at the piano on stage. Those in attendance were spellbound.
In selecting the show for the Theater Department production, Anderson said, “It was exciting to expand the students’ repertoire into the highly influential work of Marc Blitzstein through what even then felt like a timely tale of greed, institutional corruption, and disenfranchisement.”
“Our country and our community have gone through a tremendous shift, even since this play was chosen, and many of us have been left with the burning question,’What can theatre do?’,” added Anderson. “Every single rehearsal, something that had happened that morning, that afternoon, found frightening resonance in the lines that Blitzstein wrote 80 years ago.”
Through “The Cradle Will Rock,” Anderson and her students explore the power of theater to focus attention on the most pressing issues of the day.
“Playwright and theorist Bertolt Brecht was a major influence on Blitzstein and on our production; he called for theater that would shake audiences from complacency,” Anderson explains. “Through conventions of ‘epic theater’ which often exposed the very artifice of theater, he empowered the viewer to think critically about the choices characters made and illuminated flaws in social and political institutions.”
Tickets are $12 general admission; $8 for seniors, military and students. Purchase tickets online or call the theater department, 860-439-2605, for more information.