Mark S. Wrighton, chancellor emeritus and the James and Mary Wertsch Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis, has been appointed interim president of George Washington University. His term will begin Jan. 1, 2022, and conclude June 30, 2023, during which time George Washington will conduct a global search for a permanent president. Wrighton will be on sabbatical from Washington University during this time period.
“Mark Wrighton is an esteemed figure in higher education who has a well-deserved place among the most highly respected and longest-serving leaders in the academy,” Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said. “It is wise of George Washington University to recognize this opportunity to have him serve as interim president, and I’m certain that their institution will benefit greatly by having him there, just as we have here at Washington University. I wish him all the best as he assumes this important role and look forward to working collaboratively in the months ahead as leaders of our respective institutions.”
Elected the 14th chancellor of Washington University in 1995, Wrighton served in this role for 24 years, during which time the university made significant progress in student quality, campus improvements, resource development, curriculum and international reputation. Among the university’s significant accomplishments during Wrighton’s tenure were a more than three-fold increase in undergraduate applications, more than 300 new endowed professorships for faculty, a redesigned Arts & Sciences curriculum and newly created programs in biomedical engineering, public health and American culture studies. During his time as chancellor, the university completed more than 50 new buildings for Arts & Sciences, business, design and visual arts, engineering, law, medicine, social work and residential life. The redevelopment of the east end of the Danforth Campus also was completed under Wrighton’s leadership.
“I am pleased to have the opportunity to help George Washington University prepare for a new era of growth in quality and impact,” Wrighton said. “Celebrating the 200th anniversary of its founding this year, George Washington University already has a long and outstanding record of accomplishment in scholarship, education, patient care and research. It is an honor to participate in launching its third century of contributions to society.”
Wrighton began his academic career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1972 as an assistant professor of chemistry. He served from 1981-89 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 1987-90. He was appointed provost of MIT in 1990 and held that post until his appointment as chancellor at Washington University in 1995.
As a leader in higher education, Wrighton has received numerous honors, including honorary doctorates from the University of West Florida, Florida State University, Harris-Stowe State 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 earned his bachelor’s degree with honors in chemistry from Florida State University in 1969. He completed his graduate work in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, from which he earned his doctorate in 1972.