RISD’s Board of Trustees announced today that Provost Rosanne Somerson 76 ID will serve as interim president, beginning January 1, 2014. After an international search, the acclaimed furniture designer was named provost in 2012 and has continued to move RISD’s academic mission forward, building on a more than 35-year commitment to the college and its community. Last week President John Maeda announced that he has accepted a position with the Silicon Valley firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and will be leaving at the end of the month.
“Provost Somerson is an inspiring, passionate and dedicated leader for RISD,” notes RISD Board of Trustees Chair Michael Spalter. “The Board genuinely appreciates Provost Somerson’s willingness to lead our institution at this time. We have every confidence that she will do so with the same passion, grace and unwavering commitment to RISD that she has demonstrated throughout her career.”
Somerson was instrumental in the creation of RISD’s 2012–17 strategic plan Critical Making | Making Critical, and co-edited the book The Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice (2013, Wiley) with Mara Hermano, which was released this fall.
“I am honored by the trust in me demonstrated by RISD’s Board of Trustees,” notes Somerson. “As we search for our next president, I will work diligently with everyone in the RISD community to honor this trust. I am fortunate to partner with Chief Operating Officer Jean Eddy, who brings her great expertise and experience, all of which are invaluable to RISD. In consultation with the faculty and academic leadership, I will soon name an interim provost so that the important work of advancing our strategic plan’s academic initiatives can continue seamlessly.”
Somerson earned her BFA from RISD in 1976 and joined the faculty in 1985, going on to help found and head the Furniture Design department. She served as interim associate provost for Academic Affairs from 2005–07 and as interim provost during the 2011–12 academic year. In addition to her academic roles at RISD, Somerson has maintained her own studio since 1978, where she designs and makes furniture. Her award-winning work has been exhibited internationally and is included in private, corporate and museum collections, most notably at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
“Provost Somerson, a renowned global thought leader, has demonstrated time after time her ability to lead RISD and its academic programs with vision, creativity and humility,” notes Board Vice Chair Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn 83 TX. “Her countless admirers – former students, current colleagues and members of the Board of Trustees – know her as a decisive, collaborative and respected leader. She is mindful of RISD’s traditions, strengths and core values, yet able to embrace change as well as imagine the boundless possibilities of art and design. We look forward to working with her as our interim president.”
The Board of Trustees will begin a search for the next president in January.