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.
Sept. 23 kick-off event features Simone Dinnerstein on piano
A Far Cry stands at the forefront of an exciting new generation in classical music. On Saturday, Sept. 23, at 7:30 p.m., the orchestra will be joined by pianist Simone Dinnerstein in Palmer Auditorium.
A Far Cry, the Grammy nominated, self-conducted orchestra, “brims with personality or, better, personalities, many and varied,” according to The New York Times. A Far Cry was founded in 2007 by a tightly-knit collective of 17 young professional musicians — the Criers — and since the beginning has fostered an innovative structure of rotating leadership among the group, both on stage and behind the scenes. By expanding the boundaries of orchestral repertoire and experimenting with the ways music is prepared, performed and experienced, A Far Cry has been embraced throughout the world with hundreds of performances coast to coast and across the globe, and hundreds of thousands of online views of live streaming concerts and YouTube archives.
American pianist Simone Dinnerstein is an inventive artist who is motivated by a desire to find the musical core of every work she approaches. The New York-based pianist gained an international following with the remarkable success of her recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Released in 2007 on Telarc, it ranked No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Classical Chart in its first week of sales and was named to many "Best of 2007" lists, including those of The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker.
The concert program spans the centuries, with works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Philip Glass and includes a newly commissioned piano concerto by Glass. “There are almost no concertos written for piano and strings since Bach's time. Both Glass and I have a strong interest in the music of Bach and how it impacts us today. The pairing of the Bach concerto with his own composition will create myriad strands of connectivity, enabling the listener to draw bridges between the old and the new,” Dinnerstein said.
“I have been aware of A Far Cry for a few years and as I was searching for a season opener to celebrate our centennial of presenting the performing arts I thought they were a perfect match,” said Robert Richter, Connecticut College’s director of arts programming. “What better way to celebrate our centennial than with an innovative chamber orchestra made up of young musicians? Add to that a world class pianist and a program that spans the ages. It will be a fantastic concert!”
Reserved seating tickets are $28; seniors, $25 and students, $14.