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The University Magazine

Resume ranges from microwaves to banjos

William Destler has spent his entire professional career – more than 30 years – at the University of Maryland, rising from research associate and assistant professor of electrical engineering to senior vice president and provost, a position he has held since 2001.

William Destler chats with RIT community members following an open forum on Feb. 19.

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 and graduation rates rose by 62 percent and 80 percent, respectively. While interim vice president for advancement, Destler secured a $25 million gift from Comcast Corp. for construction of an arena, named Comcast Center.

As dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering from 1994 to 1999, Destler created the Gemstone Program, a multidisciplinary, four-year program for undergraduate honors students of all majors. (

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.

Destler and his wife, Rebecca L. Johnson, have two sons. Walter is a senior majoring in computer science and theater at the University of Maryland; and Nathan is a senior in high school.

During his own college days, Destler composed and performed folk music. He retains a passion for stringed instruments, especially banjos.

Find out more about Destler’s hobby at