Destler brings 30 years of academic prowess to RIT

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A. Sue Weisler

William Destler, center, has spent more than 30 years at the University of Maryland.

William Destler has spent his entire professional career—more than 30 years—at the University of Maryland, rising from the ranks of research associate and assistant professor of electrical engineering to senior vice president and provost, a position he has held since 2001. He has also served as electrical engineering department chair, dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering, interim vice president for university advancement, vice president for research and dean of the graduate school.

During his term as graduate school dean, from 1999 to 2001, student applications increased by more than 20 percent and research funding rose by more than 30 percent. As senior vice president for academic affairs, retention increased and the graduation rate rose from 62 percent to 80 percent over five years. While interim vice president for advancement, Destler was credited with securing a $25 million gift from Comcast Corp. for naming rights supporting the construction of the Comcast Center sports arena.

As engineering school dean, a position in which he served from 1994 to 1999, Destler created the Gemstone Program, a multidisciplinary four-year research program for undergraduate honors students of all majors in which teams of students design, direct and conduct research exploring the interdependence of science and technology with society. (For more about the program, visit

The program’s mission states that it is “dedicated to the development of citizens, scholars and leaders.”

It continues:

“Our efforts are focused on holistic student development, both inside and outside the classroom. We value qualities of mutual respect, intellectual excitement, collaboration and diversity of thought. We strive to give our students the transferable skills valuable for wherever life will lead them.”

Other achievements at Maryland that Destler cites include leading a faculty team in the creation of a cross-disciplinary master’s degree program in telecommunications; originating the Hinman CEOs Program, a living-learning entrepreneurship initiative for undergraduate students; and involvement in the President’s Promise, an outside-the-classroom experiential program for freshmen.

Destler earned a bachelor’s degree from Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, N.J., and a Ph.D. from Cornell University. An expert on high-power microwave sources and advanced accelerator technologies, he has consulted for government agencies and private firms, received more than $40 million in grants and contracts, published numerous journal articles and book chapters, and presented many papers. He has directed 18 master’s and doctoral student theses and earned awards for his teaching.

RIT’s soon-to-be president is familiar to at least one RIT faculty member. Destler was the favorite professor of Chance Glenn, associate professor of telecommunications engineering technology, when Glenn was an undergraduate at the University of Maryland.

“The warmness and insight we glimpsed during his visits here are truly real components of his personality,” says Glenn. “To me, this is an enduring quality of his that will serve the RIT community for many years to come.”

In a statement attributed to University of Maryland President Dan Mote in The Diamondback, an independent student newspaper, Mote is quoted as saying:

“His vision, judgment and counsel have been critical to our academic and fiscal directions during this period of unparalleled achievement. Any university would do well indeed to recruit Bill to its presidency.”