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President Leshin to Become Director of Jet Propulsion Laboratory

DEPARTMENT(S): 
January 27, 2022

The following message was sent to the WPI community from Jack Mollen, Board Chair, and David LaPre, ’74, Presidential Search Committee Chair

Eight years ago this month, WPI announced the appointment of Laurie Leshin, an esteemed space scienist and academic leader, as WPI’s 16th President. We were thrilled to welcome her to our campus and our community. Today, we announce that President Leshin will be stepping down from WPI at the end of this academic year to serve as the Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). JPL is operated by Caltech for NASA and is one of our nation’s leading space exploration organizations with a focus on advancing humanity’s understanding of the Earth, Solar System, and beyond using robotic spacecraft. Most recently JPL successfully landed the Perseverance Rover and Ingenuity Helicopter on Mars.

We know that this comes at a time when strong and consistent leadership is more important than ever. Laurie will remain as President of WPI through the end of the academic year and will preside over Commencement ceremonies. An interim president, to be voted upon soon by the Board, will begin their service in mid-May. This will ensure continuity of our university’s mission while allowing for a thoughtful and comprehensive national search for WPI’s 17th President.

We also want you to know that the specific day and timing of this news are because Caltech and NASA are announcing today, and we wanted this community to be fully informed concurrently with their announcement.

WPI has achieved great things under Laurie’s leadership and with your partnership, commitment, and dedication. There will be plenty of time to acknowledge these accomplishments in the months to come. Right now, please know that WPI will continue its focus on supporting the well-being of our community, successfully navigating the pandemic, and meeting the goals of our strategic plan and campaign. At the center of all of this are WPI students—our greatest treasure—and our commitment to their education, health, well-being, and personal development.

The Search Process

Over the next several months, the Board will initiate the presidential search process, chaired by Trustee David LaPre ’74. Selecting a president is one of the most significant responsibilities of the Board of Trustees, and the Board is committed to attracting the strongest possible candidates. Our search process will be broad and consultative and will engage the entire WPI community as we balance the need for agility and confidentiality. We will begin with the selection of a presidential search consultant and the appointment of a search committee to include faculty, staff, students, alumni, and trustees.

The Board and Search Committee will communicate regularly with the WPI community; in fact, we will be back in touch shortly to provide more information and updates on the process and anticipated timeline, and on ways for you to engage in this important endeavor. We thank you in advance for your support as we work together to recruit the university’s next distinguished leader.

In closing, we are grateful for Laurie’s passion, energy, and support; we are a stronger and more inclusive university because of her leadership. In partnership with the entire Board of Trustees, please join us in thanking Laurie and her husband, Dr. Jon Morse, for their contributions to WPI and the Worcester community. 

Note: On February 18, 2022, it was announced that Provost and Senior Vice President Winston Oluwole “Wole” Soboyejo––a highly accomplished academic and administrative leader––will serve as interim WPI president upon President Laurie Leshin’s departure in May. Read more.