Holden Thorp, provost at Washington University in St. Louis, will leave his position effective July 15, according to Chancellor Andrew D. Martin. Thorp, who has served in his current role since 2013, plans to take a one-year sabbatical and then return to the university in a newly created leadership role in the drug discovery and innovation space, with details to be shared at a future date.
“We owe a significant debt of gratitude to Holden Thorp for lending his considerable talents to Washington University during his six years as provost,” Martin said. “Thanks in large part to his outstanding leadership, we are poised to take the university into its next era of excellence in research, scholarship, teaching and learning. We have benefited greatly from his expertise, particularly in the transformation of our student body and faculty into a more diverse, innovative and academically gifted community. On a personal level, I am grateful to Holden for his support and friendship during the transition as I assume the role of chancellor. He is a trusted adviser and colleague, and I look forward to continuing our work together when he returns to the university to pursue his future endeavors.”
“These six years as Washington University provost will always be a highlight of my career,” Thorp said. “Our students, faculty and staff are among the very best in higher education. Working with Mark Wrighton and our remarkable team has been a joy every day. Leading the extraordinary Washington University faculty into the Quad at Commencement has been a highlight every year, and I look forward to joining my faculty colleagues when I return to the university. Chancellor Martin has bold ideas for the future of the university, and I look forward to being part of our continued ascent.”
Appointed provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at Washington University on July 1, 2013, Thorp also is the Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor and holds faculty appointments in both chemistry and medicine.
During his tenure, Thorp has led the university’s academic enterprise through a period of tremendous growth in several key areas. Among his chief priorities has been increasing socioeconomic diversity within the Washington University student body, a cause he championed vigorously with significant results. As one indicator, the percentage of Pell grant-eligible students in the entering first-year class increased from 6% in 2013-14 to 14% in the 2018-19 academic year.
He also has been a driving force in changes to the undergraduate admissions process, which has led to incoming classes becoming not only stronger academically during each of his years as provost, but also more racially diverse. In addition, the university has seen a significant increase in the percentage of yield – students who choose Washington University over other schools to which they have been accepted. Thorp also has been instrumental in bringing about the university’s rise in prominence as an institution that drives innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly in the St. Louis region.
“During his years here, Holden has created quite a legacy, not only for himself, but for the university under his leadership of the academic enterprise,” said Mark S. Wrighton, who concluded his term as Washington University’s chancellor on May 31 after serving in the role for 24 years, and during whose tenure Thorp joined the university. “He is a brilliant scientist and entrepreneur, a talented teacher and a skilled administrator, and we are indebted to him for his significant contributions not only to our faculty and students, but also to the character of our institution. I thank him for all he has done for Washington University, and for me personally, and I wish him all the success in the world as he embarks on this next chapter of his remarkable career.”
Thorp joined the university after spending three decades at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), where he served as the 10th chancellor from 2008 through 2013. A North Carolina native, he started at UNC as an undergraduate student and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with highest honors in 1986. He earned a doctorate in chemistry in 1989 at the California Institute of Technology and completed postdoctoral work at Yale University. He holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from North Carolina Wesleyan College and is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.
“It has been Washington University’s good fortune to have Holden Thorp as our provost,” said Barbara A. Schaal, dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor of Biology. “He has led us to think differently about our mission as scholars and educators. With the benefit of his vision, experience and guidance, we have made great strides in our ability to recruit, retain and support the best and brightest students and faculty from diverse backgrounds. It has truly been a pleasure to serve the academy in partnership with Holden – especially given our shared love of the sciences – and Washington University is a better place for having him here as provost.”
“Washington University is well known for providing an exceptional student experience and, under Holden’s leadership, we have strengthened it even further,” said Lori S. White, vice chancellor for student affairs. “We have maintained laser focus over the last six years on diversity and inclusion, increasing access and support for students from underresourced and first-generation backgrounds, campus resources and, of course, academic excellence. One of Holden’s great strengths is his accessibility to students to hear and respond to their concerns. We are a stronger and more diverse community today because of him, and I want to express my deep gratitude to him, both as a leader and a friend.”
In his research career, Thorp developed technology for electronic DNA chips and co-founded Viamet Pharmaceuticals. Viamet developed oteseconazole, which is now in Phase 3 clinical trials for fungal disease. An active and engaged leader in the St. Louis community, he currently serves as a member of the boards of the College Advising Corps, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.