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.
Tony-award winning rock musical ‘Spring Awakening’ opens March 2
A rock musical adaptation of the seminal play about the trials and tribulations of growing up, “Spring Awakening,” winner of eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, will open Friday, March 2, at 7:30 p.m. in Palmer Auditorium, under the direction of guest director Leora Morris. Three more performances are on Saturday, March 3, at 2 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, March 4, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18, general admission, and $8 for students, seniors and military, available online, at the door, or by calling 860-439-ARTS (2787).
Through a groundbreaking Broadway score, with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, “Spring Awakening” explores the journey from adolescence to adulthood with a poignancy and passion that is illuminating and unforgettable. Based on the play by Frank Wedekind, the landmark musical is an electrifying fusion of morality, sexuality and rock and roll.
As Morris describes the play, “In Spring Awakening, a community of teenagers in late nineteenth-century Germany struggle to get to know themselves and their impulses of lust, rage, tenderness, and rebellion, in a world of grownups and grownup systems that - intentionally and unintentionally - domesticate, repress and oppress them. The songs open up a poetic, contemporary space in which the teens can be their truest selves; where their civilized, social exteriors give way to their delicate and unruly interiors.”
She continues, “What happens when we decide to ‘be the change we want to see in the world’ if the world isn’t ready for that change? Can we raise children with the structures they need in order to grow safely without being overly controlling? Is giving children too much freedom dangerous?“
The Theater Department production features dynamic choreography by the College’s own David Dorfman and music direction by Robert Frost. Rebecca Brill Weitz ’18, whose self-designed major is in Performance Design and Technology, is the lighting designer. Guest director Morris is joined by Claire Deliso and Yana Biryukova, collaborators from the Yale School of Drama.
Morris holds an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama, is an Associate Artist at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, and an O’Neill/National New Play Network National Directing Fellow, which included some residencies at the nearby Eugene O’Neill Center in 2017. Originally from Toronto, Leora works on theatrical projects all over Canada and the USA and has upcoming productions in New York, Washington D.C., Toronto, and Atlanta. She is a winner of Toronto’s 2012 Ken McDogall Award for Emerging Directors and a co-recipient of Yale’s Julian Milton Kaufman Prize for Directing.