Education News

Rice President David Leebron Announces He Will Step Down In 2022

Leebron, who has led the system since 2004 and is just the seventh president in school history, will leave June 30, 2022. He is the second-longest tenured president since its first, Edgar Odell Lovett, who served for 34 years.

Rice University President David Leebron
Rice University President David Leebron will step down, the university announced on May 26, 2021.

David Leebron will step down from his role as Rice University president at the end of the next academic year, the school announced Wednesday.

Leebron, who has led the system since 2004 and is just the seventh president in school history, will leave June 30, 2022. He is the second-longest tenured president since its first, Edgar Odell Lovett, who served for 34 years.

"I am proud of so many things that we've accomplished at Rice," read a statement from Leebron. "But I'm especially proud of the community's constant desire to provide greater opportunities and address the most important challenges facing our city, our country and our world."

Leebron’s tenure included overseeing an exapnsion of school facilities and the student body, according to Rice. Over the last 17 years, the student population has grown by more than half to 7,500 as of Fall 2020, and by 2025, is expected to reach 9,000, the school said. The school’s applicant pool has increased by 75% in the last four years alone, sparking an expansion. The number of domestic undergraduate students of color grew by almost 75% during his tenure, the school said.

The campus has also gone through a physical transformation, including an ongoing $1.8 billion plan to add 29 new buildings and renovate others, Rice officials said. During his tenure, the school completed construction on the Moody Center for the Arts and the Brockman Hall for Opera, among other projects. A new engineering and science building, an architecture building, the Sarofim Hall for visual arts and a dramatic new student center are in the design phase, the school said.

"On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to express our deep appreciation and esteem for what David has done to transform our university while preserving its core values and community," read a statement from Rob Ladd, board chair. "Over what will be an extraordinary 18 years of service, David has had the vision, courage and determination to improve almost every aspect of this university."

While the school has seen improvements in diversity, Leebron’s tenure also included some blowback from students of color who have urged the administration to increase diversity in the student body and faculty in recent years. Black students wrote a university demand letter over a statue of slaveowner William Marsh Rice, who willed his fortune to found the school. The statue remains on campus.

Despite the criticism, Rice was recently named the No.1 school for “race/class interaction” by the Princeton Review.

Leebron was born in Philadelphia and graduated Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review, according to his biography. He taught at the UCLA School of Law and the NYU School of Law, and served as dean of Columbia Law School before heading to Rice in 2004.

The university confirmed it will form a search committee to find the university's next president.

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Paul DeBenedetto

Paul DeBenedetto

Senior Producer

Paul DeBenedetto is Houston Public Media's senior digital producer, writing and editing stories for HoustonPublicMedia.org. Before joining the station, Paul worked as a web producer for the Houston Chronicle, and his work has appeared online and in print for the Chronicle, the New York Times, DNAinfo New York, and other...

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