Former dean of the University of Michigan College of Engineering praised for academic record, research credentials, student engagement, leadership, vision.
David C. Munson Jr. has been named Rochester Institute of Technology’s 10th president. The RIT Board of Trustees made the decision at a special session, selecting the former dean of the University of Michigan College of Engineering from a pool of national candidates.
Munson will assume RIT’s top post July 1, succeeding Bill Destler, RIT’s president since 2007. Munson will be responsible for one of the nation’s leading research and career-oriented universities featuring 18,700 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries, 121,000 alumni, $73 million in sponsored research, and an endowment of more than $750 million.
“It is a great honor and privilege to become the next president of what I believe to be a gem in higher education,” said Munson. “I was drawn to RIT when I observed an exciting portfolio of academic programs, research with impact to solve global problems, and an ability to stay focused on the overall student experience. I was truly impressed with RIT’s strengths in the arts, as well as technology, and how they are blended. I look forward to maintaining university traditions and simultaneously building on the 2025 Strategic Plan, ‘Greatness through Difference.’ I am eager to meet members of the RIT community and work with them to reach their aspirations.”
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.
“We are proud to welcome Dr. Munson to RIT and look forward to him leading the university through its next exciting chapter,” said Christine Whitman, chair of the RIT Board of Trustees. “His extensive academic experience, respected research credentials, demonstrated leadership, engagement with students and global vision will propel RIT to new heights. We know he will build on the strong foundation established by President Destler and his predecessors whose tireless work made RIT a distinctly great university.”
Whitman added: “Dr. Munson has articulated a vision that is consistent with our strategic plan. He has the skills and experience to accomplish our goals and he sees opportunities to take us even further.”
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. Eight of its academic departments are ranked in the nation’s top 10.
Munson earned his BS degree in electrical engineering (with distinction) from the University of Delaware in 1975. He earned an MS and MA in electrical engineering from Princeton in 1977, followed by a Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1979, also from Princeton.
From 1979 to 2003, Munson was with the University of Illinois, where he was the Robert C. MacClinchie Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Research Professor in the Coordinated Science Laboratory, and a faculty member in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.
In 2003, he became chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at U-M prior to becoming dean. Today, with his deanship appointment fulfilled, he serves as a professor of electrical engineering and computer science.
Munson’s teaching and research interests are in the area of signal and image processing. His current research is focused on radar imaging and computer tomography. He is co-founder of InstaRecon Inc., a start-up firm to commercialize fast algorithms for image formation in computer tomography. He is affiliated with the Infinity Project, where he is coauthor of a textbook on the digital world, which has been used in hundreds of high schools nationwide to introduce students to engineering.
Munson is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a past president of the IEEE Signal Processing Society, founding editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Image Processing, and co-founder of the IEEE International Conference on Image Processing. In addition to multiple teaching awards and other honors, he was presented the Society Award of the IEEE Signal Processing Society, he served as a Distinguished Lecturer of the IEEE Signal Processing Society, he received an IEEE Third Millennium Medal, and he was the Texas Instruments Distinguished Visiting Professor at Rice University.
In 2016, Munson earned the Benjamin Garver Lamme Medal from the American Society of Engineering Education (highest award for an engineering administrator).
It is this record of accomplishment that drew praise from current RIT President Bill Destler, who will retire June 30 after serving more than 40 years in higher education and 10 years as RIT president. He applauded the work of the search committee and the selection of the new president.
“On behalf of RIT and the Greater Rochester-Finger Lakes region, I welcome Dr. Munson and his wife, Nancy, to our community,” said Destler. “The naming of a new president is an exciting time for RIT students, faculty and staff, as well as our alumni, family and friends around the world. Dr. Munson has an impressive record of accomplishments, and brings skills, expertise and experience that will greatly benefit this university, and further propel RIT as one of the great global universities.”
Electrical engineer. Entrepreneur. Mathematician. Musician. Teacher. Researcher. Collaborator …
Add grandfather and rapper to the biography.
Meet David C. Munson Jr. – RIT’s next president.
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 with the Boy Scouts, and traveled on family camping trips to visit the national parks. 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.”
He went on to earn electrical engineering degrees from the University of Delaware (BS) and from Princeton University (MS, MA and Ph.D.).
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. Eight of its academic departments are ranked in the nation’s top 10—some twice for different programs.
Munson credits his colleagues at U-M Engineering for the school’s success. Here are highlights of his tenure:
Throughout his career, Munson has advised more than 50 MS and Ph.D. thesis students and served on committees for many others. He has supervised dozens of undergraduate research projects.
In the research world, 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 U.S. ground-based imaging of satellites and also underlies progress on space-based high-resolution SAR imaging of the Earth.
Munson also worked with colleagues to devise a new method of Earth-based radar imaging of the moon and interior planets that provides significantly improved resolution, and they showed the feasibility of using existing aircraft weather radars in a synthetic aperture mode for imaging of runways during landing in fog and cloud cover. In related work, he and colleagues demonstrated the feasibility of passive (covert) imaging of aircraft using reflected radio and television signals.
Munson is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and he has earned many other awards and honors, including the Benjamin Garver Lamme Medal from the American Society of Engineering Education (highest award for an engineering administrator), in 2016.
Munson, 64, is married to Nancy Munson, a former nurse, avid runner and volunteer. The couple has four sons and four grandchildren.
To read more on how Munson propelled Michigan Engineering, go to:
To see the fun side of Professor Munson, watch “A Jedi’s Chant”: