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Central MA’s Woman of the Year

Thursday, January 01, 2015


In January 2014, Laurie Leshin was named the President of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Leshin is the first ever woman President in the school's 150 year history.

GoLocal has named her GoLocal Worcester's 2014 Central MA's Woman of the Year.

Leshin, a geochemist, space scientist, and former dean of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, is WPI's 16th president. Born in Boston, Leshin grew up in Tempe, Arizona.

As GoLocal reported, Leshin was inaugurated this past November. At the inauguration, Leshin said, "Because we are a community that thrives on imagining more, because we are WPI, we must look at the challenges we face in our neighborhood, our nation and our world and we can ask 'How can we do better?'"

Leshin spent six years as a senior leader at NASA. She remains a member of NASA's Mars Curiosity Team and is still on call for monitoring the rover. At NASA, Leshin was Deputy Director of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and was also Director of Science and Exploration at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. In 2011, Leshin received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. Leshin even has an asteroid named for her, the 4922 Leshin, which is located in the main belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter.

“In addition to bringing exceptional academic credentials from some of our nation’s leading universities, Laurie also brings tremendous experience and expertise from her time spent in leadership positions at NASA. She is an academic who understands the role of – and the potential for – academia in the larger world. Laurie has the rare capacity to work as successfully with students and faculty as she does with the White House and Congress. She is well positioned to take WPI to an even higher level of excellence and prominence. We are proud to have her at the helm of this fine university," said Warner Fletcher, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at WPI.

During her inauguration address, Leshin said, "Today, what the world needs from WPI is to focus on impacts and outcomes, now more than ever. Impact is so critical to our future success, to WPI's future value to the world, that I believe we should consider it as WPI's third tower: theory, practice, and impact. That should be the focus of our work."

In June 2015, WPI will host the fourth Sample Return Robot Challenge, a Centennial Challenges competition with a NASA-funded purse of $1.5 million.

President Barack Obama appointed Leshin to the Advisory Board of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Leshin also served on President George W. Bush's Commission on Implementation of United States Exploration Policy. In 2007, Leshin gave a presentation on space exploration to Queen Elizabeth II.

At the conclusion of her inauguration speech, Leshin said, "As the President of this fine university, it will be my sincere privilege to work with our outstanding faculty and staff as we nurture and then launch students to a bright and bold future. It will be a tremendous point of pride to watch our research efforts grow. To see the fruitful realization of ideas and the creation of enterprises. To open new pathways for life-long learning and engagement. To build upon a foundation of excellence to become the premier global polytechnic. To take theory to practice to impact.”


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