WPI Appoints John Orr as Provost and Senior Vice President

Respected Expert, Scholar, and 31-Year Veteran of WPI Will Lead University’s Academic and Research Programs
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April 07, 2008

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WORCESTER, Mass. -- Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey today announced the appointment of John Orr, PhD, as the university's new provost and senior vice president. The appointment follows an intense, yearlong, nationwide search. Provost Orr built his distinguished career at WPI over the past 31 years. His appointment is effective immediately.

As WPI provost, Orr will be responsible for all of the university's academic and research programs, and as senior vice president he will serve as the senior member of the president's staff. His primary charge will include reviewing the undergraduate curriculum to ensure its excellence, strengthening core academic and research areas, recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty, and broadly supporting the university's continuing increases in quality and stature. For the past year, Orr has served as WPI's provost ad interim.

"John Orr is an excellent scholar, a distinguished engineer, and a talented leader," said President Berkey. "For the past year, he has served as provost ad interim with great energy and distinction. During his time in that role, he gained valuable experience and demonstrated a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for WPI. Widely admired for his tireless work ethic and deep devotion to the university, John is superbly qualified to serve as provost. I look forward to working in close partnership with him."

Orr received BS and PhD degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and earned an MS degree in electrical engineering at Stanford University. He began his career at WPI in 1977 when he was named an assistant professor of electrical engineering. Eleven years later, in 1988, he was named head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, a position he held until 2003, when he was named dean of undergraduate studies for the university. Prior to joining WPI, Orr obtained professional experience at Bell Laboratories, and he also recently completed a sabbatical year in the Global Positioning System Laboratory at Stanford University.

Among his credits, Orr has co-authored a textbook on information engineering, has been involved in curriculum development at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and has worked on assessment and accreditation activities. His research interests span several aspects of digital signal processing; his most recent work has focused on the area of precision personnel location systems. Provost Orr is a Fellow of the IEEE, awarded for his contributions to engineering education, and a member of Eta Kappa Nu. He is a member of the ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission, past chair of the IEEE Committee on Engineering Accreditation Activities, member of the FIE Steering Committee, past member of the Educational Activities Board of the IEEE, and past president of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association.

"WPI is far more than a place of employment for me; it is a home," said Orr. "I have spent the past 31 years of my career here because I believe wholeheartedly in WPI's motto, 'Theory and Practice.' Solutions to all of the biggest problems facing our world, such as hunger, healthcare provision, the energy crisis, and sustainable living, will require the efforts of individuals who truly understand the principles of science and engineering, as well as their impacts on individuals and society. WPI empowers its students to drive these much needed changes, and it is my privilege to work with our talented faculty, staff, and students."