David C. Munson Jr. named RIT’s 10th president




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David Munson

David C. Munson Jr., former dean of the University of Michigan College of Engineering, will become RIT’s 10th president on July 1.

Munson was introduced to the RIT community on Jan. 25 by RIT Board Chair Christine Whitman at an event in the Gordon Field House. The announcement was watched via live-stream by about 2,000 people, including at RIT campuses in China, Croatia, Dubai and Kosovo.

“We believe we have identified the ideal leader to continue RIT’s rise to prominence,” Whitman said. “A leader who shares our commitment to outstanding career-focused education, research and innovation, love of both technology and the arts, and a desire to help students from widely diverse backgrounds succeed.”

Munson thanked the RIT Board of Trustees for what he called “a thrill and privilege” to be named university president. And he congratulated retiring President Bill Destler, RIT students, faculty, staff and alumni “for the exemplary work you all have done in creating such a strong foundation for the future.”

“When I stepped down from my dean position this past summer, RIT was already known to me because I had admired your progress over the years and your strength in the arts as well as technology,” Munson said.

A 24-member search committee composed of students, faculty, staff, alumni, administration and trustees narrowed the pool of candidates before the final selection by the Board of Trustees.

Munson has 38 years of experience in higher education, which includes serving as the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering at Michigan from 2006 to 2016, where he served two five-year terms, the maximum allowed by U-M. Michigan Engineering is considered one of the top engineering schools in the world. Ten of its academic departments are ranked in the nation’s top 10.

Munson credits his colleagues at U-M Engineering for the school’s success. Here are highlights of his tenure:

  • Led a college of 10,000 students, 600 faculty members and 600 staff members.
  • Managed a $550 million budget.
  • Annual research expenditures increased from $130 million to $250 million.
  • Grew faculty ranks by 30 percent with aggressive hiring and retention programs.
  • Launched the Center for Entrepreneurship, which offers programs to 2,500 students annually.
  • Worked with university leaders to develop the Joint Institute with Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.
  • Supported his staff to create the Michigan Engineering Zone in Detroit, where undergrads and alumni mentor 300 minority students on FIRST Robotics teams from 18 public high schools.

“In the coming years, I look forward to maintaining RIT’s traditions and simultaneously building on the 2025 Strategic Plan, ‘Greatness through Difference,’” Munson said. “To be sure, there is still much work to be done at RIT in program development, recruitment of top-notch faculty and students, planning of facilities and fundraising. But I believe that RIT is positioned to continue its upward trajectory, elevating its distinctive programs to best in class and generating new ideas and programs for the future, with the promise of making an ever-larger difference in the world.”

RIT Student Government President Andrea Shaver, who was on the search committee, said that Munson is going to fit right in to the RIT community.

“He’s a very genuine person who really understands RIT and our vision for the future,” she said. “Especially for students, he has a true understanding of many different issues students face: The rise in the cost of higher education, mental health, sustainability initiatives, creativity and innovation.”

Shaver said she can’t wait to see how much RIT will grow in the next decade under Munson’s leadership.

Background

Munson grew up in Iowa, Ohio and Delaware where he sang with a folk group, played saxophone in the marching band, played basketball, earned the distinction of becoming an Eagle Scout and traveled on family camping trips to visit national parks in the United States and Canada. Some of his fondest childhood memories were reading Popular Science magazine, peering at the rings of Saturn, and building rockets made from cardboard tubes and balsa wood that were “launched so high you couldn’t see them, so you’d track them with binoculars and you’d use your walkie-talkies and your recovery team would find the thing out in some farmland.”

Education

He earned electrical engineering degrees from the University of Delaware (BS) and from Princeton University (MS, MA and Ph.D.).

Career

Munson’s career path began at the University of Illinois where in 1979 he started as an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. After 24 years, he left Illinois to become chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan. In 2006, Munson was named the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering at Michigan where he served two five-year terms, the maximum allowed. Michigan Engineering is one of the top engineering schools in the world.

Research

Munson is highly regarded in several areas of signal and image processing. He has spent much of his research career working on imaging systems, particularly synthetic aperture radar (SAR). He was the first to mathematically describe the tomographic imaging mechanism underlying spotlight-mode SAR, and the first to show why high-quality radar imagery can be produced from band-pass Fourier data. His tomographic formulation of SAR served as the basis for ground-based imaging of satellites and also underlies progress on space-based high-resolution SAR imaging of the Earth.

Personal

Munson, 64, is married to Nancy Munson, a former nurse, avid runner and volunteer. The couple has four sons and four grandchildren.

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David Munson