Bill Destler, RIT’s ninth president, will retire at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year. Destler’s career in higher education has spanned more than 40 years, with this upcoming academic year being his 10th at RIT.
“As we enter our final year, the RIT community cannot rest on its laurels if we are going to continue to be a great global university,” Destler said. “I plan to roll up my sleeves during the next year because we still have a lot of work to accomplish before I retire.”
A nationwide search for a successor began immediately.
Under Destler’s leadership, RIT’s enrollment has reached record levels, selectivity and diversity have improved, the value of research awards has grown significantly and geographic draw continues to widen across the U.S. and overseas.
Destler accomplished his vision of turning RIT into one of the most innovative universities in the world. The Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival has attracted more than 250,000 visitors to campus since it launched in 2008, and RIT can boast about award-winning programs in a host of uncommon disciplines, including packaging science, computational astrophysics, sustainability and interactive games and media.
During his tenure, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education reclassified RIT as a doctoral university, reflecting the rapid increase in the number of Ph.D. degrees the university grants each year; RIT’s ninth college, the College of Health Sciences and Technology, launched; the Vignelli Center for Design Studies opened; the Golisano Institute for Sustainability created the world’s first Ph.D. program focused on sustainable production; and RIT was among the first universities in the country to create a department dedicated to computing security.
Destler also helped make RIT a greener campus. Since 2008, RIT has opened three LEED certified buildings, including the first building in Monroe County to be certified LEED Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council and a state-of-the-art green facility for the Golisano Institute for Sustainability. Last year, RIT took another step toward carbon neutrality by opening a massive solar energy farm.
Destler, who became president of RIT on July 1, 2007, and his spouse, Rebecca Johnson, expanded RIT’s relationship with the community. Destler and Johnson created the Rochester City Scholars program, which gives Rochester City School District graduates who meet certain requirements free full tuition to attend RIT. RIT also partnered with Uncommon Schools to develop a charter high school in Rochester.
“Rebecca and I have been proud to make Rochester our home,” Destler said. “This has been an amazing journey for both of us.”
In a memo to the RIT community, Destler added: “These years at RIT have been the most fulfilling of my professional career. To all of you, I offer my heartfelt thanks for your friendship, for your ideas, and for your steadfast service to RIT and our students.”
Christine Whitman, chair of the RIT Board of Trustees, said Destler has positioned RIT well for the future and that growth will continue as the 2015-2025 strategic plan is deployed.
“RIT is leading the way in preparing our diverse student body for the rewarding jobs of the future while equipping them with the skills to become good citizens of our world,” Whitman said. “Under Dr. Destler’s leadership, every measurable indicator is up. RIT is having high impact and is recognized both nationally and internationally.”
Destler came to RIT from the University of Maryland at College Park, where he spent more than 30 years, rising from the ranks of research associate and assistant professor of electrical engineering to senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.
He is an international authority on high-power microwave sources and advanced accelerator concepts and one of the world’s foremost collectors of antique banjos.
The search is on for RIT’s 10th president.
“Under Bill Destler’s leadership, RIT is firmly positioned as a leading international university whose academic portfolio, research agenda and educational model are making an impact across the globe,” said Board of Trustees Chair Christine Whitman. “The RIT presidency will be an extremely attractive position to attain in the world of higher education.”
A Presidential Search Committee, led by Trustee and past Board Chair Brian Hall, was formed with broad representation from across university constituencies. An executive search firm will guide the process and identify a strong pool of candidates. The search process will include receiving input from various constituent groups on the desired goals and leadership attributes for the next president. This includes seeking input from RIT alumni chapters across the nation.
“The process for selecting our next president will be open and transparent,” said Hall ’78 (MBA). “We will include all of the RIT governance groups. The Presidential Search Committee composition will include representation from faculty, staff, students, alumni, deans, vice presidents and trustees.”
The Board of Trustees, with input from the RIT community, will ultimately select the new president in the spring of 2017. The new president will begin July 1, 2017.
Go to rit.edu/president/president_search for the latest information on the search and for ways to get involved.