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.
Wang Ai: Flying Over Ancient Landscapes, exhibition at Shain Library
Contemporary Chinese artist Wang Ai will present his new mixed-media works that juxtapose contemporary elements with abstract animal images, canonical Buddhist and Confucian texts, and traditional Chinese landscapes. "Wang Ai: Flying Over Ancient Landscapes" is on display in the Charles Chu Room of Shain Library through Nov. 7, and is free and open to the public. Library hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wang Ai’s art offers a dialogue with the Chinese art tradition in its broad sense. An artist, poet and author born in 1971 in Huangyan, Zhejiang, China, into a family of artists, Wang Ai studied traditional Chinese art during his childhood under the influence of his father and brother by imitating the illustrations in the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting. Simultaneously possessing a highly experimental and self-reflective sensibility and also an intuitive and indigenous upbringing, he considers himself a contemporary artist exploring boundaries of tradition and modernity, not merely a painter of any school. Among all the works that he has created to date, the series of Flying Over Ancient Landscapes is the one that best crystalizes the fascinating and captivating contradictions embedded in Wang’s identity as a contemporary artist.
In 2008, inspired by the Northern Song landscape painter Fan Kuan's masterpiece "Travelers among Mountains and Streams," Wang decided to experiment on paper, re-engaging the great Chinese landscape painting tradition and searching for a new style and direction. Often calling his style “polyphonic,” he weaves a labyrinthine universe of ancient landscapes, animals, and scriptural texts, which are juxtaposed with contemporary elements and presented in mixed media on paper. The current exhibition features some of his most recent works from this series and for the first time exhibited here.
Wang currently lives and works in Beijing. He has exhibited extensively in China and Europe.
Wang visited the College for an informal artist talk and dialogue at the exhibition opening on Sept. 21.