Mark Wrighton officially began his tenure as interim University president Saturday, capping off Thomas LeBlanc’s tumultuous, four-year tenure.
Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights said in September that Wrighton would begin his new role at the University Jan. 1, cutting short LeBlanc’s leadership earlier than initially planned when he announced his retirement. Wrighton, the former chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, will serve as interim president for up to 18 months until officials select a leader to take on the permanent role.
Wrighton’s arrival in Foggy Bottom comes as students prepare to return from winter break with D.C. recording its highest case rate during the pandemic to date. Spring classes will begin remotely for at least one week, a decision made just days ago with Wrighton’s support.
Wrighton’s leadership comes after LeBlanc’s rocky tenure headed to a close last month on the heels of GW community members demanding his resignation. Students, faculty, staff and alumni cited layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic, a racially insensitive analogy and LeBlanc’s strategic plan to cut enrollment as among the reasons for him to resign.
“The future is bright, and I look forward to continuing to support the University and seeing the growing impact of GW on society and on future generations of students,” LeBlanc said last month prior to his retirement.
Students and faculty have said they are hopeful that Wrighton’s presidency can create more transparency and improved communication.
Wrighton will take the reins of an administration working to strengthen shared governance. Wrighton said in an interview with The Hatchet the day he was announced as interim president that he looked forward to working with faculty to find a “common understanding” of shared governance and collaborating with student leaders to improve the student experience.
“Our objective is to prepare the institution for a new president by coming to both an understanding and implementing that understanding,” he said at the time.