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.
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Saturday, April 1 The Art and Science of Pruning, from 10 a.m. to noon, with Jim Luce, Supervisor of Grounds. Meet in New London Hall, Classroom 101. $10 (Free for members). Trees and shrubs thrive with judicious pruning. This workshop will cover what, when, how and why to prune. Topics covered will include training young trees and shrubs to avoid future problems, renovating overgrown shrubs and pruning hedges. After a brief lecture inside, participants will go outside to view pruning demonstrations on campus plantings.
Sunday, April 2 Grapevine Craft Workshop, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., with Maggie Redfern, Arboretum Assistant Director, and Leigh Knuttel, Horticulturalist. Please register to learn of the meeting location. $10 (Free for members). After a brief outdoor harvest of dormant winter grapevines, participants will make a unique wreath or rustic basket to take home. You’ll learn which vines to use (and which not) and leave with an easy spring project you can enjoy for years to come. Bring hand pruners and gloves.
Wednesday, April 5 Growing Plants from Seed, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., with Maggie Redfern, Arboretum Assistant Director and Leigh Knuttel, Horticulturalist. Meet in New London Hall, Botany Lab, Room 112. $25; $15 members. From annuals and perennials to trees and shrubs, success can be achieved if one understands what triggers germination and the growing process. This workshop is for beginners and those who have been frustrated in past attempts to transform seed to seedling. Students will leave class with a selection of potted seeds.
Wednesday, April 12 Orchids for Beginners, from 7 to 9 p.m., with Lydia Pan, Arboretum Volunteer, and Leigh Knuttel, Horticulturalist. Meet in New London Hall, Botany Lab, Room 112. $10; $5 members. Growing orchids in the home can be easy and rewarding with their long-lasting flowers. Participants will learn about their light and water requirements, tour the Connecticut College Greenhouse orchid collection, and take part in a repotting demo. Registrants are invited to bring in their own plants to learn how to repot or diagnose plant problems.
Wednesday, April 26 Nature Printmaking, from 4 to 6 p.m., with Julie Garvin Riggs, Florence Griswold Museum Art Educator. Use the Williams Street entrance to the Arboretum, and meet at Buck Lodge. $20 ($15 members). Using pencils and printmaking foam, sketch a landscape in relief which will then be covered in printing paint and rolled out onto cardstock to create a beautiful mirror image. Prints resemble wood block carving prints. Each student will be able to make multiple prints on many colors of cardstock.
Friday, April 28 Attend the Photo Contest Reception on Arbor Day, from 4 to 5 p.m. in Unity House, when prizes for the Annual Photo Contest will be announced, light refreshments served. Exhibition on view through May 24. Contest details, rules and entry forms are posted online. Deadline for submission of photos is April 7.
Sunday, May 7 Bonsai Workshop, from 2 to 5 p.m., with Todd Hansen, Sanctuary Bonsai, East Hartford, Connecticut. Meet in New London Hall, Botany Lab Room 112. $45 ($35 members). This program will demystify the ancient horticultural art form of bonsai. Following a lecture and demonstration, participants will begin working on a small plant to start on its path towards being a bonsai. With a focus on care and maintenance learn all the basics of bonsai design.
Sunday, May 14 Wildflower Identification Workshop, co-sponsored with the Connecticut Botanical Society, from 10 a.m. to noon, with Susan Munger, Arboretum volunteer. Meet at the Arboretum entrance on Williams Street. Free, reservations required. Wildflowers are often identified by flower form and color. Other useful characters are leaf form, growth pattern and habitat. The first hour will be spent at Buck Lodge practicing with keys using field guides such as Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. Live specimens will be provided. Bring guidebooks and hand lenses if you have them. Then we will walk to the Arboretum Wildflower Garden to test our skills with what is in bloom. It is asked that participants Do Not Pick Anything while in the Arboretum. Please, no dogs or children.
For a complete list of all spring Arboretum programs, Subscribe to Arboretum events on Facebook to stay up to date on all current programs. Those who join the Arboretum enjoy many programs for free. For further information, call 860-439-5020, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Arboretum website.