Mark S. Wrighton, chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, has announced his intention to conclude his term as chancellor, effective no later than July 1, 2019. Wrighton, who has served in the role since 1995, shared the news with the university’s Board of Trustees at its fall meeting on Oct. 6.
“I am very proud of the progress that has been made at Washington University during my years as chancellor,” Wrighton said. “Much has been accomplished in partnership with a long list of strong, effective leaders across the university. Together, we have accomplished something extraordinary in the past 22 years, building upon the remarkable foundation established by Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth.
“Every school of the university has become stronger, thanks to the dedicated and creative leadership of our deans, and we have launched major interdisciplinary initiatives focused on our most important strategic priorities. There is much we have accomplished, and much work that remains to be done in order for the university to achieve its full promise and potential. I will continue to do my best to serve the university as chancellor until my successor is in place.”
The university will conduct a global search for Wrighton’s successor, under the leadership of Craig D. Schnuck, chair of the Board of Trustees and chairman emeritus of Schnuck Markets Inc.
“For more than two decades, Mark Wrighton has represented the very best of Washington University, and has given the university community — students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends — so many reasons to be proud,” Schnuck said. “We knew this day would eventually come, but it still is difficult to picture the university without Mark in the chancellor’s office. He will certainly be a tough act to follow, but we know that, thanks in large part to his remarkable leadership, his successor will be well poised to continue the trajectory of excellence that the university has experienced during his tenure. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I thank Mark for his service and wish him every happiness as he begins the next chapter of his life.”
“Twenty-two years ago, Washington University had a wonderful search committee looking for my successor as chancellor. All were thrilled when they recommended Mark S. Wrighton of MIT — a talented chemist and highly respected academic leader,” said Danforth, who served as Washington University’s 13th chancellor from 1971 to 1995. “Fortunately, Mark agreed to join us. All quickly realized he was competent and very hard-working; he inspired confidence in himself and the institution he led. Since his arrival, Washington University has grown in reputation, in wealth and in alumni support; it has become more widely recognized internationally, partnering with other universities, and attracting talented young scholars from other lands.”
Washington University’s 14th and second-longest serving chancellor, Wrighton has overseen a period of tremendous growth in the university’s national and global reputation, resources, curriculum and the quality and diversity of its student body. He has led the university through two major capital campaigns, including the current Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University, a $2.5 billion effort that will conclude on June 30, 2018.
During Wrighton’s tenure, Washington University has grown into one of the nation’s leading centers of cancer research and patient care, and it has partnered with premier research universities around the world to address major global challenges. The university has seen a more than two-fold increase in undergraduate applications, has added more than 250 new endowed professorships for faculty, and has established programs in biomedical engineering, public health and American culture studies. Its physical campuses also have grown substantially during Wrighton’s chancellorship, with more than 50 new buildings completed for arts and sciences, business, design and visual arts, engineering, law, medicine, social work and residential life. Additionally, major renovation projects were launched and are currently underway on both the Medical and Danforth campuses, including the expansive transformation of the east end of the Danforth Campus, and Driving Discovery, an ambitious, multiphase project that will create new research and teaching facilities for the sciences.
Wrighton began his academic career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1972 as an assistant professor of chemistry. He served from 1981 until 1989 as the Frederick G. Keyes Chair in Chemistry, then as the first holder of the Ciba-Geigy Chair in Chemistry in 1989 and head of the Department of Chemistry from 1987 to 1990. He was appointed provost of MIT in 1990, and held that post until he came to Washington University as chancellor in 1995.
Among the many leadership positions he has held at a wide array of organizations, Wrighton has served as a member of the board and longtime supporter of the United Way of Greater St. Louis, and will serve next year as its campaign chair. He currently serves on the boards of directors of BioSTL, Brooks Automation, Cabot Corp., Corning Inc., CORTEX Innovation Community, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Forest Park Forever (ex officio). He also is a member of Civic Progress St. Louis. He served from 2000 to 2006 as a presidential appointee and chair of the Audit and Oversight Committee for the National Science Board, which advises the president and Congress on science policy and serves as the primary advisory board to the National Science Foundation. He also has served as vice chair of the National Academies’ Committee on America’s Energy Future and chair of the Committee on the Management of University Intellectual Property.
The author or co-author of more than 300 published scholarly articles, Wrighton holds 16 patents stemming from his research in the areas of transition metal catalysis, photochemistry, surface chemistry, molecular electronics and in photoprocesses at electrodes. Among his many honors as a scientist, he was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship from 1974 to 1976, the Pure Chemistry Award from the American Chemical Society in 1981, and the Award in Inorganic Chemistry in 1988. He received a MacArthur Prize Fellowship in 1983, and the same year was recognized with the Gregory and Freda Halpern Award in Photochemistry from the New York Academy of Sciences and the E.O. Lawrence Award from the United States Department of Energy.
As a leader in the field of higher education, Wrighton has received numerous honors, including honorary doctorates from the University of West Florida, Florida State University, Harris-Stowe University and Fudan University in Shanghai, China. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1992 from his alma mater, the California Institute of Technology. In 1995, he was named an honorary alumnus of MIT and in 2002 was named an honorary professor at Shandong University in Jinan, China.
Wrighton also has been celebrated for his leadership in the St. Louis region, including recognition as Citizen of the Year by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2007, and as Humanitarian of the Year by the Eastern Missouri Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation in 2000. For his outstanding contributions to Washington University and the St. Louis region, the St. Louis Regional Chamber honored him with the Right Arm of St. Louis Award in 2010.
Wrighton and his wife, Risa, are active in the St. Louis community and plan to remain in the area following the conclusion of his chancellorship.