Mark S. Wrighton, Ph.D., was elected the 14th chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis in 1995, and serves as its chief executive officer. In the years following his appointment, the university has made significant progress in student quality, campus improvements, resource development, curriculum and international reputation.
Washington University, founded in 1853, is a private institution with more than 13,000 students, about half of whom are in graduate or professional degree programs. The university has seven academic divisions: Arts & Sciences, George Warren Brown School of Social Work, John M. Olin School of Business, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, School of Engineering & Applied Science, School of Law and School of Medicine.
Washington University has 3,098 instructional faculty and 13,000 employees. The university’s total operating budget is $1.7 billion, and its $4.8 billion endowment places it among the top 10 private universities in the United States. Washington University is a top recipient of federal, industrial and foundation research support for its programs in medicine, science, engineering and social science, with more than $540 million provided annually from external sponsors.
University accomplishments during Chancellor Wrighton’s tenure include a more than two-fold increase in undergraduate applications, 165 new endowed professorships for faculty, a redesigned Arts & Sciences curriculum, newly created programs in biomedical engineering and American culture studies, and completion of 30 new buildings, with several more either under construction or planned in the next few years.
New and renovated facilities include major building programs for design and visual arts, law, business, medicine, Arts & Sciences, social work and residential life. Planning for a new engineering campus is moving forward. Construction on the Sam Fox Arts School of Design & Visual Arts supporting architecture and art, including the new Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum and Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker Hall was completed in 2006.
Work began in fall 2006 on a new Law and Social Sciences Building and on a new University Center. Altogether, recent construction and renovations — completed, under way and soon-to-be started — total more than a billion dollars.
In 1998 the university publicly launched a billion-dollar campaign to build resources for student scholarships, professorships, other endowed program support and new buildings. Two years later, the university raised the campaign goal to $1.3 billion and in May 2001 announced that the original billion-dollar goal had been surpassed. In December 2002, the $1.3 billion goal was met. The campaign continued through June 30, 2004, and raised more than $1.55 billion.
As the university’s reputation has grown, interest among prospective students has climbed dramatically — exceeding 22,500 applications for about 1,330 openings in a typical entering class. Applications come from all 50 states and more than 100 other countries.
Wrighton currently serves as a member of the boards of birectors of Brooks Automation; Cabot Corporation; the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center; the Nidus Center for Scientific Enterprise; and Universities Research Association.
He also serves as a trustee of Barnes-Jewish Hospital; BJC Healthcare; Innovate St. Louis, the Saint Louis Art Museum; the St. Louis Science Center; and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Chancellor Wrighton is an ex officio member of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association’s Board of Directors, the Missouri Botanical Garden and Civic Progress.
Wrighton is a past chair of the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF), which is America’s leading organization addressing issues of common interest to the world of business and learning. He is a past chair of the Association of American Universities (AAU).
Mark S. Wrighton’s Background
Born in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1949, Wrighton received his bachelor’s degree with honors in chemistry from Florida State University in 1969. While at Florida State, he studied under Professor Jack Saltiel and upon graduation received the Monsanto Chemistry Award for outstanding research.
He did his graduate work at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) under Professors Harry B. Gray and George S. Hammond, receiving his doctorate there in 1972. His doctoral dissertation was on “Photoprocesses in Metal-Containing Molecules.” He was named the first recipient of the Herbert Newby McCoy Award at Caltech based on his research accomplishments.
He received an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from the University of West Florida in 1983 and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Caltech in 1992. In 1995 he delivered Caltech’s commencement address. In 2002, he was named an Honorary Professor at Shandong University in Jinan, China.
Wrighton started his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1972 as assistant professor of chemistry. He was appointed associate professor in 1976 and professor in 1977.
From 1981 until 1989 he held the Frederick G. Keyes Chair in Chemistry. In 1989 he was appointed the first holder of the Ciba-Geigy Chair in Chemistry. He was head of the Department of Chemistry from 1987-1990 and became provost of MIT in 1990, a post he held until the summer of 1995.
Wrighton is the author or co-author of more than 300 articles published in professional and scholarly journals, and he holds 14 patents. He has research interests in the areas of transition metal catalysis, photochemistry, surface chemistry, molecular electronics, and in photoprocesses at electrodes.
Principal objectives of his research have been to elucidate the basic principles underlying the conversion of solar energy to chemical fuels and electricity, to discern new catalysts and ways of making them, to understand chemistry at interfaces, and to provide the knowledge base for development of new electro-chemical devices. Wrighton has lectured widely on his research work and has given more than 40 named lectureships at distinguished colleges and universities in the United States and other countries.
He was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, 1974-1976, and was the recipient of a Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Grant in 1975-1980. The American Chemical Society awarded him the Pure Chemistry Award in 1981 and the Award in Inorganic Chemistry in 1988.
He was awarded a MacArthur Prize Fellowship in 1983. Also in 1983, he was awarded the Gregory and Freda Halpern Award in Photochemistry by the New York Academy of Sciences and the E. O. Lawrence Award by the United States Department of Energy. In 1984 he was selected as the recipient of the Fresenius Award of Phi Lambda Upsilon.
Wrighton’s teaching activities have been rewarded with the MIT Chemistry Department Graduate Teaching Award in 1981 and the MIT School of Science Teaching Prize in 1987. About 70 individuals have received the Ph.D. degree under his supervision at MIT.
Wrighton was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1988 and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1986. In 2001, he was elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society.
Wrighton has received public recognition for his research and educational achievements in the print media. In the September 1980 issue of Fortune, he was profiled along with eight other U.S. scientists under age 40, highlighting his efforts in duplicating photosynthesis.
In 1984, Science Digest included him as one of America’s brightest scientists under age 40, and in 1985 named him one of America’s top 100 innovators of the year. U.S. News & World Report featured Wrighton in a February 1988 cover story on “The New American Establishment,” and in Business Week’s 1989 special issue on “Innovation in America” his work on molecular electronics was profiled and he was included as one of the 10 innovators in science.
He was included in Esquire’s 1989 Register along with 38 other men and women “who are making America a smarter, healthier, wealthier, safer, livelier, prettier, all around more interesting place to live.” He was named “Humanitarian of the Year 2000” by the Arthritis Foundation’s Eastern Missouri Chapter.
Wrighton was a presidential appointee to the National Science Board (2000-06), which serves as science policy advisor to the President and Congress and is the primary advisory board to the National Science Foundation. While on the NSB, Wrighton chaired the Audit and Oversight Committee.
Wrighton served on the Chemistry Research Evaluation Panel for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (1976-1980); as a titular member of the IUPAC Commission on Photochemistry (1976-1983); as a member of the American Physical Society Study Group on Solar Photovoltaic Energy Conversion (1977-1979); on the National Materials Advisory Board Study on Battery Materials (1979-1980); the Energy Research Advisory Board Solar Panel (1982); the Advisory Committee of the Chemistry Division (Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1983-1985); the Advisory Committee for the Chemistry Division of the National Science Foundation (1984-1987) and as chairman (1986-1987); the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee of the Department of Energy (1986-1989); the Energy Research Advisory Board Panel on Cold Fusion (1989); the National Research Council Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology (1986-1989); member-at-large in the Gordon Research Council (1986-1989); member of the Governing Board of Council on Chemical Research (1988-1991); member of the Science Advisory Committee of the Electric Power Research Institute (1990-1992); and member of the Materials Research Advisory Committee of the National Science Foundation (1990-1991).
He was a member (1981-1997) of the Defense Sciences Research Council (formerly the Materials Research Council) of the Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Advisory Committee for the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences of the National Science Foundation (1995-1996).
Wrighton also served on the Board of Overseers of the Boston Museum of Science (1991-1997) and as a member of the Corporation of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (1991-1995) and of the Corporation of Draper Laboratory (1994-1996).
He served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Chemical Heritage Foundation (1998-2002) and as a trustee of the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (1998-2002).
Wrighton served as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) from 2002-2005.
Wrighton served on the Editorial Advisory Board of Inorganic Chemistry (1983-1989), Chemical and Engineering News (1984-1986), Journal of Molecular Electronics (1985-1990), Chemtronics (1985-1990), Chemistry of Materials (1989-1993), Inorganica Chimica Acta (1984-1993), and Journal of Physical Chemistry (1994-1995).
He was editor for the Physical Electrochemistry Division for the Journal of the Electrochemical Society (1980-1983).
He has edited two volumes of the American Chemical Society’s “Advances in Chemistry” series and served as the consulting editor for the text General Chemistry (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th editions) by Darrell D. Ebbing, published by Houghton Mifflin.
He is the co-author of a book titled “Organometallic Photochemistry,” published in 1979 by Academic Press.