Givens appointed associate vice chancellor for public affairs; will succeed Jasper Leicht

Steven J. Givens has been named associate vice chancellor for public affairs and executive director of University Communications at Washington University in St. Louis, effective Jan. 1, 2007.

M. Fredric Volkmann, vice chancellor for Public Affairs, announced the promotion. Givens, who serves as assistant vice chancellor and special assistant to Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, will succeed Judy Jasper Leicht, who announced she plans to retire at the end of the calendar year.

“Steve is an extraordinarily effective manager and a talented communicator. He has my highest respect personally and professionally, and I know that he will be an outstanding leader for University Communications,” Wrighton said.

Steve Givens
Steve Givens

Volkmann added, “Judy Leicht will be greatly missed — as a national leader in her profession, as the university’s spokesperson and as a superb manager of our news operation. We are fortunate that she has agreed to help with special projects after her retirement in January.

“Steve Givens has an exceptional background in university public affairs and communications, both here and at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He also has a great depth of knowledge about Washington University, and he will be a terrific addition to our public affairs team.”

As associate vice chancellor, Givens will lead the University Communications team and be responsible for the planning and the implementation of public affairs strategies and programs for national and international news initiatives of the six schools on the Hilltop Campus, for development of local and regional news, and for external electronic communications, including the news and information Web site and the radio and television broadcast studio. Givens will be responsible for internal communications, including the print and electronic Record. He also will supervise Sports Information.

“I am delighted to be able to help lead one of the very best and most respected university communications programs in the nation,” Givens says. “It is an honor to join the team of seasoned and creative professionals who are committed to telling the story of Washington University to the world.”

A native of St. Louis, Givens is an experienced and accomplished communicator who has worked in education nearly his entire career.

After graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in English in 1985 from the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL), he remained at that university in positions including assistant director of University Communications, senior information specialist and speechwriter for then-Chancellor Marguerite Ross Barnett. He earned a master’s degree in education from UMSL in 1992.

From 1989-1992, Givens owned and managed his own communications agency serving educational institutions and small businesses.

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, he was a widely published freelance journalist. Givens is the author of five children’s books, numerous religious-education publications and co-author of the book that marked the 25th anniversary of the Gateway Arch.

His essays and commentaries have appeared in numerous newspapers and have been broadcast on National Public Radio.

Givens was a consulting writer, composer and musical performer for the Emmy Award-winning documentary on the 1904 World’s Fair that aired nationally on PBS.

Givens began his career at Washington University in 1992 as senior periodicals editor and served for two years as editor of the award-winning Washington University Magazine. After a three-year hiatus in England, where he wrote and taught creative writing, Givens returned to the university in 1997 as assistant to the chancellor.

In this capacity, his responsibilities include managing the Chancellor’s Office operations and staff, serving as liaison to internal and external groups, dealing with a wide range of issues and spearheading special projects, including the 2000 and 2004 Presidential Debates that drew more than 1,500 journalists to St. Louis. He co-chaired the university’s Sesquicentennial Celebration in 2003-04.

Givens sits on or chairs numerous university committees and planning groups, frequently representing the university in the community through active involvement in numerous organizations.

His responsibilities were further expanded when he was named assistant vice chancellor and liaison to the Richard A. Gephardt Institute for Public Service in July. Givens will maintain this role with the institute in his new position.

Leicht joined the university in 1989 as executive director of university communications and was named assistant vice chancellor for public affairs in 1994 and associate vice chancellor in 1997. Prior to joining the university, Leicht was public relations director for the St. Louis Science Center and served as director of community relations for Webster University.

Judy Jasper Leicht
Judy Jasper Leicht

Leicht graduated from Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. Active in many professional and community associations, she serves on the Public Relations Advisory Council for the Parkway School District and is a former board member of the World Affairs Council of St. Louis.

During the past decade she has served in many leadership positions with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), which serves more than 3,250 member universities, colleges and independent schools worldwide. Leicht helped guide CASE’s development through her work as chair of CASE District 6, as a member of the CASE International Board of Trustees and then serving a two-year term as chair of that board.

While serving on the board, she oversaw the creation of a new international headquarters building for the organization in Washington, D.C., and the appointment of a new chief executive to lead CASE’s worldwide efforts. In 2003, she received the prestigious Frank L. Ashmore Award for service to CASE and to the advancement profession.