Wrighton named inaugural holder of Wertsch professorship

Mark Wrighton
Mark S. Wrighton, chancellor emeritus of Washington University, is the first recipient of the James and Mary Wertsch Distinguished University Professorship. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

Chancellor Emeritus Mark S. Wrighton has been named the James and Mary Wertsch Distinguished University Professor at Washington University in St. Louis. An installation ceremony will be held at a later date to recognize the appointment.

Wrighton, who concluded his term as chancellor May 31, 2019, after serving 24 years, returned to teaching as a member of the Department of Chemistry in Arts & Sciences. The professorship recognizes his accomplishments as both a university leader and a scholar in his field.

The professorship was established by Washington University to honor James and Mary Wertsch and their decades-long contributions to the university. James Wertsch is director emeritus of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, a global education and research initiative that Wrighton founded in 2005.

“It is fitting that these outstanding citizens of the university — and of the world — be recognized in such a way,” said Chancellor Andrew D. Martin. “One of Mark Wrighton’s key themes in his 1995 inaugural address was making Washington University a global leader. Within 10 years, Mark’s farsighted initiative — the McDonnell International Scholars Academy — was born and today it is a premier globalization program because of his vision and Jim’s leadership.”

About Mark S. Wrighton

During Wrighton’s tenure as chancellor, the university underwent tremendous growth and made significant progress in the quality and diversity of its student body, campus improvements, resource development, its curriculum and national and global reputation.

University accomplishments under his leadership include an almost three-fold increase in undergraduate applications, 363 new endowed positions created, a redesigned Arts & Sciences curriculum, newly created programs in biomedical engineering, public health, American culture studies, and completion of more than 50 new buildings and the redevelopment of the east end of the Danforth Campus.

He led the university through two major capital campaigns, including the most recent — Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University ― that  exceeded its $2.2 billion goal with more than $3.3 billion realized.

In addition to his many accomplishments as a university administrator, Wrighton is the author or co-author of more than 300 articles published in professional and scholarly journals, and he holds 16 patents. His research achievements are in photochemistry, surface chemistry and electrochemistry. Currently, his interests include international relations, financing higher education and higher education policy.

“It is a tremendous privilege to hold a named professorship established to honor Jim and Mary Wertsch,” said Chancellor Emeritus Wrighton. “We have worked closely for more than 15 years to develop the McDonnell International Scholars Academy. Jim and Mary have made numerous contributions to the lives of the McDonnell Scholars and to programmatic elements of the McDonnell Academy. This new professorship is an enduring tribute to them, and for me to hold this professorship in their names is very special indeed!”

Wertsch and Chancellor Mark Wrighton in Washington D.C. in 2009
Mark S. Wrighton (left) and James Wertsch chat during a trip to Washington, D.C., with the McDonnell International Scholars Academy. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

About James Wertsch

James Wertsch is the David R. Francis Distinguished Professor. He concluded his tenure as vice chancellor for international affairs and as founding director of the McDonnell Academy in 2018.

His time with the academy fostered relationships with scholars around the world.

Under his leadership, the academy grew in size and scope from 15 partner universities — all in Asia — to 34 partner institutions around the globe. These institutions, which engage the world’s premier research faculty, share expertise and research to help solve the world’s greatest challenges together.

A professor of sociocultural anthropology and of international and area studies, both in Arts & Sciences, Wertsch studies national narratives and memory, collective memory and identity, especially in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union, as well as in the United States.

He served as chair of the Department of Education in Arts & Sciences from when he joined the university in 1995 until taking on the academy directorship in 2005.

“To say Mary and I are humbled by having this professorship named for us is more than the usual understatement, especially with Mark Wrighton named as its first holder,” James Wertsch said. “When Mary and I began working with him, John McDonnell and others to create the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, we had a ringside seat for observing someone who had the national and international stature to build the first program of its kind for fostering future leaders and building collaboration with others.”

About Mary Edwards Wertsch

Mary Wertsch is a former investigative journalist. She is author of the book “Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress” (Crown Publishing, 1991). Her five years of research found such strong similarities among adults raised in career military families that the military can be seen as their cultural origin and identity, just like members of any other ethnic group.

Mary spent time as a poetry writing instructor in St. Louis public elementary schools through Springboard to Learning. She served as a full-time activist against gun violence for a few years and was director of Missourians Against Handgun Violence and of Gateway to Science, a two-year initiative to increase the understanding and appreciation of science in the population of the St. Louis metropolitan region. She is also an accomplished artist. She studied philosophy at the College of William and Mary.

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