Washington University in St. Louis is taking a significant step toward fulfilling its promise to be “in St. Louis and for St. Louis” by reorienting its top administrative structure to create an executive leadership position for the university’s regional efforts.
Henry S. Webber, executive vice chancellor and chief administrative officer, will transition to the newly created role of executive vice chancellor for civic affairs and strategic planning, with a sharp focus on regional equitable economic development, community engagement and partnership with the university’s neighborhoods and civic and community leaders.
“As an institution, we have made a commitment to the St. Louis region to double down on our role and impact in the community. It is now time to make good on that promise, and we are ready to move forward in a big way to strengthen our community partnerships and our desire to be Washington University not just ‘in’ St. Louis, but ‘for’ and ‘with’ St. Louis,” Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said. “Hank Webber is an innovative leader, an accomplished scholar, and the absolute best person to lead us into this new phase. I am extraordinarily grateful to Hank for lending his talents to this incredibly important effort, and I know our communities – both Washington University and the greater St. Louis region – will be all the better as a result of his leadership.”
“St. Louis is our home and it is critically important to us – both as an institution and as individual community members – that it should succeed and thrive,” Webber said. “That means focusing on both the region’s many strengths and also our deep challenges, including racial segregation and large income and health disparities. We know we can only achieve our goals through a true partnership, which means listening to one another and learning from our shared history as we build on the strong foundation. If we are to succeed in our goal to be ‘for’ and ‘with’ St. Louis, it must be a two-way street. We are committed to doing our part, and I am convinced that together we can make a great difference in economic opportunity in St. Louis in the years ahead.”
In his new role, Webber will be responsible for developing and implementing the WashU Compact, a commitment between the university and the greater St. Louis region as the university looks to strengthen its community partnerships. He will have primary responsibility for university initiatives and units that are most directly focused on the St. Louis community and university planning, including the Office of the University Architect and Planner; the Academy for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Edison Theatre; the Institute for School Partnership; the university ombudsman; real estate operations and development; capital projects; sustainability; and the Washington University Police Department.
He will share responsibility for the Office of Community and Government Affairs with the chancellor, and he’ll share responsibility for the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement and University College with the provost. Among his first priorities will be to initiate a universitywide planning process, to be informed by and closely coordinated with the university’s strategic plan, which will include a significant focus on engagement with the St. Louis community.
Since coming to Washington University in 2008, Webber has led the development of the university’s real estate master plan; administrative cost-efficiency strategy; long-term housing strategy; and sustainability master plans; and he leads, along with the provost and chief financial officer, the university budget process. He has played a leading role and serves as board chair of Cortex, a 200-acre urban technology redevelopment district that is home to 425 companies and 6,200 jobs, and the growth of the KIPP charter school network in St. Louis.
“I have been encouraged and inspired by Washington University’s aspiration to be not only ‘in’ St. Louis, but ‘for’ St. Louis. It has been clear from the start that there is great sincerity and conviction in that goal,” said Sam Fiorello, president and chief executive officer of Cortex. “The university is a tremendous asset in our region, and if we are to achieve our collective goal of making St. Louis a better place for all of our citizens, it is extremely important for us to work together to derive solutions and create opportunities.
“On a personal note, I know Hank Webber to be a smart and passionate leader who understands the nuances of what we are trying to accomplish, such as strengthening and growing our workforce, training entrepreneurs and, importantly, being more intentional in our desire to become a more diverse and inclusive region. I am so pleased that he will be focusing more of his energy and talent to bring to bear Washington University’s considerable resources and excellence for the betterment of our region.”
Webber, who also is a professor of practice at the Brown School and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, is a nationally recognized expert in community engagement and development. As a faculty member, he teaches courses on topics including urban development, health policy, strategic management and social welfare policy. His scholarly research has centered around community development, mixed-income housing, racial and income segregation and the role of anchor institutions in urban communities.
Prior to his appointment at Washington University in 2008, Webber spent 21 years at the University of Chicago, including as vice president for community and government affairs. Under his guidance, the University of Chicago’s community affairs program was recognized in a national study as one of the dozen strongest programs in the United States.
Webber will continue to serve on several nonprofit boards in the St. Louis region, including as chair of the board of directors of Cortex. He also serves as chair of the board of the Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corp. and Invest STL, the St. Louis regional community-development initiative. He is on the boards of directors of Forest Park Forever, Downtown Partnership, Provident, RISE and the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. He previously served on the board of directors of Shorebank, the largest community development bank in the United States.
A graduate of Brown University, Webber earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
A search committee will be formed to identify candidates to succeed Webber in his current role. In the meantime, he will continue to lead most of the key areas in his portfolio.