Connecticut College selects Les Wong as interim president
The Connecticut College Board of Trustees has unanimously elected Leslie E. Wong, Ph.D., a nationally respected leader in higher education, to become interim president of Conn, effective July 1, 2023.
Wong will succeed Katherine Bergeron, whose nearly decade-long tenure as Conn’s 11th president concludes June 30. He will serve until the College’s 12th president is selected and assumes office.
Wong, a former president of San Francisco State University and Northern Michigan University and a former interim president of the University of Southern Colorado, has been a member of Conn’s Board of Trustees since 2019. He will resign his role as a recently re-elected trustee and serve on the Board in an ex officio capacity, as is customary, until the 12th president is appointed.
In his announcement to the Conn community, Debo P. Adegbile ’91, chair of the College’s Board of Trustees, said, “Les has deep experience in higher education leadership and a strong understanding of Connecticut College through his Board of Trustees service and committee-related work. As a member of the Board of Trustees since 2019, Les is well known to many in the Conn community. His commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion has been evident throughout his academic career. Due to his extensive presidential leadership experience and knowledge of Connecticut College, Les is uniquely positioned to assume this important role.”
In his initial message to the Conn community, Wong said, “It is such an honor to be named interim president of Connecticut College. Since I joined the Board in 2019, the faculty, staff, students, administrators and alumni have shown me the resolve, the persistence and the spirit that are needed for a great college to confront whatever comes before it.”
He added, “As a steward of this institution, I believe we have a tremendous opportunity at hand, particularly in executing our strategic plan, Building on Strength, which will guide me during my role as interim president. This role requires considerable listening and dialogue as well as a willingness to engage ideas and aspirations of everyone at Conn.”
As a member of the Board of Trustees since 2019, Wong has served on the Executive Committee, chaired the Faculty-Trustee Liaison Committee and served as vice chair of the Committee on Academic Affairs. He received his Ph.D. in educational psychology from Washington State University and previously served as president of San Francisco State University and Northern Michigan University for a combined total of 15 years. Before these roles, he served as vice president of Academic Affairs of Valley City State University and as interim president, provost and academic vice president of the University of Southern Colorado. He is married to Phyllis Michael Wong, who is the author of the award-winning non-fiction book We Kept Our Towns Going.
Wong, who identifies as a person of Mexican and Chinese ancestry, has served on the NCAA’s Task Force on Equity and Inclusion. He led a national effort to admit Mexican universities into Division II of the NCAA and since 1985 has worked closely with the State Department to promote U.S.-China relations as well as the well-being of Chinese Americans. He also led California’s statewide effort to expand Project Rebound, a social justice initiative that helps formerly incarcerated students to earn college degrees.
With Conn’s interim president position now filled, the Board of Trustees will turn its full attention to the search for the College’s 12th president. A 15-member search committee of trustees, faculty, staff and students plans by late June to select a national executive search firm that specializes in higher education. The firm’s first steps will include seeking input from a cross-section of senior administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and other friends and supporters of the College.
Exhibition features Vincent van Gogh self-portraits in the style of classical Zen portraits of Bodhidharma
The exhibition "Zhang Hongtu: Van Gogh/Bodhidharma” will open on Friday, February 16, in the Charles Chu Asian Art Reading Room at the Charles E. Shain Library, featuring internationally renowned New York-based Chinese artist Zhang Hongtu’s "Van Gogh-Bodhidharma" series. The opening and artist’s talk from 2-3:15 p.m., and reception and gallery walk from 3:15-4:30 p.m. are free and open to the public. The exhibition will run through April 15.
The thirty-nine ink paintings by Zhang Hongtu (2007-2014) represent a “remaking” of all the extant Vincent van Gogh self-portraits in the style of classical Zen portraits of Bodhidharma, the founding patriarch of Zen Buddhism. Most of the paintings have never before been exhibited in public, and are being exhibited together for the first time here in the United States. In addition, the artist has created a new video installation specifically for this exhibition.
Zhang was born in Gansu in 1943 into a traditional Chinese Muslim family and attended the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts in Beijing in the 1960s before and during the Cultural Revolution. He moved to New York in 1982 where he has lived and worked for nearly four decades. Zhang belongs to the first generation of post-Cultural Revolution artists from mainland China, including prominent names such as Ai Weiwe, Gu Wenda, Xu Bing, and Cai Guoqiang who chose New York as their base and succeeded in breaking new paths.
Zhang, one of the most senior yet probably the most young-spirited among the group, has been a crucial player in the movement and in history where contemporary Chinese and American art, East and West, meet. His most recent solo exhibition was “Zhang Hongtu,” a major survey of his long creative career, at the Queens Museum, New York in 2015-2016, and accompanied by an exhibition catalog “Zhang Hongtu: Expanding Visions of a Shrinking World" (Queens Museum/Duke University Press, 2015). His work was also featured in the recent exhibition, “Art and China After 1989: Theatre of the World,” at the Guggenheim Museum, New York in 2017-2018.