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.
The President’s Distinguished Lecture Series presents Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core, and author of 'Acts of Faith' April 25
The President’s Distinguished Lecture Series presents Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core, and author of “Acts of Faith,” “Sacred Ground” and “Interfaith Leadership: A Primer,” on Tuesday, April 25, at 7 p.m., in Evans Hall, Cummings Arts Center. The event is free and open to the public.
Patel founded Interfaith Youth Core on the idea that religion should be a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division. He is inspired to build this bridge by his identity as an American Muslim navigating a religiously diverse social landscape. For more than 15 years, he has worked with governments, social sector organizations, and college and university campuses to help make interfaith cooperation a social norm. In 2009, he was named by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders; he also served on President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Faith Council.
Patel earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship.
The President's Distinguished Lecture Series, founded in 2016 by Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron, brings notable speakers to campus each year for a public presentation and informal meetings with students, faculty and staff. During his visit to campus, Patel will be joined by Noah Silverman, a 2004 graduate of Connecticut College and senior director of faculty initiatives at Interfaith Youth Core.
The President’s Distinguished Lecture Series inaugural speaker in 2016 was Bryan Stevenson, author of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” a memoir that questions the inequities of the U.S. justice system and the morality of capital punishment. Stevenson’s visit was organized in collaboration with the One Book One Region program of Eastern Connecticut, which is designed to stimulate new kinds of dialogue among the many different communities in this region.