Office of the President
To: WPI Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni and Friends
From: Dennis D. Berkey
Date: May 11, 2013
As we conclude another successful year at WPI, I want to share with you some important news about next steps – for me personally, and for the Institute.
After careful thought and discussion with the leadership of our Board of Trustees, I have decided to conclude my service as WPI’s president & CEO. I made that announcement at the close of today’s Commencement exercises, noting to the graduates that I was joining them in concluding a wonderful chapter in my own life and career at WPI, and looking forward to some time for personal renewal and new opportunities. The Board and I agree that a clear leadership transition at the end of this academic year is best for the university and for me. The Board will soon begin a search for my successor, and I will have the pleasure of a personal sabbatical, the first in my entire career in higher education.
The nine years of my presidency have been both challenging and rewarding for WPI and for me personally. I am exceedingly proud of the good work and great achievements that we have accomplished together. Although these have been difficult years for our nation, we have enjoyed one of the most dynamic periods of growth in this university's history. I feel that I have accomplished what I was brought here in 2004 to do, and I hope you share that sentiment.
During these years, record numbers of outstanding students have applied for admission and enrolled at WPI; applications have doubled; and total student enrollment has grown by 57 percent. We have strengthened existing academic programs and added important and successful new ones, including our pioneering robotics engineering, IMGD, learning sciences, and architectural engineering programs (to name just a few). We have established the WPI School of Business, and the STEM Education Center, and added three Academic Deans. WPI’s faculty has grown along with the student body, with 74 new members in the past five years alone. From 2004 to 2012, WPI’s research funding nearly tripled, and it continues its strong upward climb. Enrollments in masters degree programs have grown dramatically on campus, at corporate sites, and through distance education.
As important as any of our achievements, we have remained faithful to the philosophy and structure of the WPI Plan, placing the full development of undergraduates as our highest priority, and adding such important new components as the Great Problems Seminars and numerous new project centers around the world. The extensive commitment by members of the faculty to the intense work of leading student project teams at off-campus sites has been a much appreciated key to WPI’s continuing success as an exemplar of the best in undergraduate education.
In the areas of fiscal performance we have moved the institution from operating deficits to a position of recognized financial strength and stability. We have also seen the transformation of WPI’s beautiful campus by the addition of eight new buildings, four each on the hill and at Gateway Park, as well as the renovation and repurposing of numerous other buildings and spaces. These include the Bartlett Center, two apartment-style residence halls, the sports and recreation center, two research/commercial buildings at Gateway Park, and parking garages at both locations. We have made a strong commitment to energy-efficient construction and the efficient use of available spaces, including the newest parking garage with the first rooftop athletic field in the state.
The most important thing I want to say is how much I have enjoyed working with all of you, the many friendships I have enjoyed here, and the sheer pleasure of interacting with our amazing students and our loyal alumni and donors. The WPI family is not only distinguished, but deeply committed to the important guiding values of the Institute that make it such an outstanding institution.
We can be proud of these remarkable accomplishments, and you can be assured that WPI will continue its ascent in the capable hands of a new – and remarkably accomplished – Chair of the Board of Trustees.
Last week during the meeting of the corporation, the board elected Phil Ryan to serve as WPI’s new Chair. Phil will be taking the reins from Steve Rubin, whose term has concluded after three years of distinguished leadership. I’m sure you will join me in expressing sincere gratitude and admiration to Steve for the excellent service and leadership he has provided to the university throughout his 18-year involvement with the board, and especially during his time as Chair.
For those of you who don’t know Phil Ryan, I can tell you that he has WPI crimson running through his veins. Phil graduated from WPI in 1965 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and went on to earn his MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1970. In addition to having been a WPI board member since 1999, he has enjoyed great success as a CEO and president, having led such organizations as Merchants Automotive Group, Elliot Health System and The Bigelow Company through periods of significant transformation and profitable growth. Phil also brings extensive experience serving on numerous public, private and non-profit boards. Most recently, as corporate advisor, he has been working closely with CEO’s, their leadership teams, and boards in mentoring executive leadership and team development. Phil has become quite familiar with WPI’s academic programs, having served for the past 2 years as the chair of the Board’s Academic Planning Committee.
WPI is fortunate now to have Phil Ryan at the helm. He brings strong business acumen, an unwavering dedication to alma mater, and a most effective leadership style. In his role as chair, Phil will lead the university through its search for my successor. He will also ensure the success of such initiatives as "if…The Campaign to Advance WPI" and the sesquicentennial celebrations in 2015. All of WPI’s senior administrators will report directly to him, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing him on campus a great deal.
As I conclude my association with WPI on May 31, I will be pleased and proud to leave the Institute in such good hands, in excellent condition, and well-positioned for further greatness, all due to the extensive, wonderful contributions by all of you.
Wishing you all the best,