January 21, 2014

WPI selects space scientist as next president

Courtesy of Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Courtesy of Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester Polytechnic Institute has tapped a geochemist and space scientist with both academic and governmental expertise as its next president.

Laurie Leshin will become the first woman to lead WPI when she assumes the presidency July 1, the university said. Leshin most recently served as dean of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and also spent six years as a senior leader at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

"She (Leshin) is an academic who understands the role of – and the potential for – academia in the larger world," said Warner Fletcher, chairman of WPI's board of trustees. "Laurie has the rare capacity to work as successfully with students and faculty as she does with the White House and Congress."

Leshin is a funded member of the Mars Curiosity Rover mission, and sits on advisory boards at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

Prior to her time at NASA, Leshin was a scientist and professor at Arizona State University. She is married to an astrophysicist and has two stepsons.

"I am truly energized by the prospect of getting to know the members of the WPI community and their aspirations, of working together to expand WPI's impact, and raising the profile of this great university," Leshin said in a statement.

Leshin succeeds Dennis Berkley, who stepped down as in May after nine years. Philip Ryan, a former WPI board chairman, has filled in as interim president since then.

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