GWU chooses interim president; LeBlanc to step down earlier

The George Washington University in D.C. has chosen an interim president who would be able to start at the beginning of 2022, allowing President Thomas LeBlanc to wrap up his term months earlier than planned, while postponing the search for a permanent replacement.

On Friday, the university’s Board of Trustees said it has chosen Mark S. Wrighton to serve as interim president. Wrighton is the Chancellor Emeritus of Washington University in St. Louis. He would serve for up to 18 months and be available to start on Jan. 1.

“President LeBlanc indicated that this timing would be consistent with his wrapping up of several projects and encouraged the Board to seize this opportunity to bring such an outstanding leader to GW,” Grace Speights, Board of Trustees chair, said in a letter to the school community.

Last May, LeBlanc announced that he will retire at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year in July 2022.

The board said it will postpone a presidential search committee until late spring. In announcing the pause, the board said it considered going forward with a traditional yearlong search for a permanent president, as well as an accelerated search.

“However, we grew concerned about the present academic marketplace for Presidents of universities of the caliber of GW because of the unusual number of vacancies (many as a result of retirements by Presidents after the stress of having to lead in the COVID-19 environment),” Speights said.

She also said the university needed to do work to be in the “strongest possible position to attract the best talent.”

That’s when the board began exploring an interim president with “deep experience, to help us all position the university for a permanent President in what we hope will be a better Presidential marketplace.”

“Professor Wrighton has had a remarkable career with awards for both his teaching and research (including over 300 published articles and 16 patents); was selected as a MacArthur Prize Fellow; has served as a faculty member, department chair, and Provost at MIT; and was Chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis (ranked number 16 by US News) for 24 successful years,” the university said.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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