A Closer Look at Wim Wiewel
Martin Meyerson Award for Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education
The Martin Meyerson Award for Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education recognizes sustained contributions in academic administration by an urban and regional planning scholar / educator that have led to significant national and/or international impacts on higher education.
The winner of the 2017 Martin Meyerson Award for Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education is Wim Wiewel.
“We believe that the record of Wim Wiewel demonstrates a clear commitment throughout his career, and through his accomplishments, to enabling institutions of higher education to innovate, grow, and lead. Like Meyerson, Wiewel is associated with the advancement of institutions of higher education in a manner that reflects both the best of academic traditions and the challenges of the world we live in today.”
--Ethan Seltzer & Connie Ozawa, Professor(s), Portland State University
Wim Wiewel is Lewis & Clark’s 25th president. He took the helm in October 2017, after nine years successfully leading Portland State University. Under his tenure, PSU became the largest and most diverse university in the state. Retention and graduation rates increased every year, while funded research went up 50 percent, and fundraising tripled. His leadership earned him a 2014 CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) Chief Executive Leadership Award.
A recipient of a classic liberal arts education as a high school student in his native Amsterdam, Wiewel learned early on the value of a broad-based education rooted in critical thinking and analysis. The first in his family to go to college, he holds degrees in sociology and urban planning from the University of Amsterdam and a PhD in sociology from Northwestern University.
Wiewel is a proponent of strong civic engagement, which benefits both the college and the community it calls home. He has served on a number of prominent business and culture organizations, including the Portland Business Alliance, All Hands Raised, Regional Solutions, and the World Affairs Council of Oregon. A vocal advocate of teaching and practicing sustainability, Wiewel works closely with civic, business, and academic leaders to drive collaboration. His first year at Portland State, Wiewel secured a $25 million sustainability research grant from the Miller Foundation. He even invited students to tear up a section of the presidential house’s yard to put in a permaculture garden. Wiewel received the 2012 inaugural Presidential Leadership Award from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools. He also garnered a Climate Leadership Award from national nonprofit Second Nature in 2013 for demonstrating innovative and advanced leadership in education related to sustainability and climate mitigation and adaptation.
A sociologist with a passion for strong cities, Wiewel has authored or edited nine books and more than 65 articles and chapters that have appeared in such publications as Economic Geography, and the Journal of the American Planning Association. His most recent books are Global Universities and Urban Development and Suburban Sprawl. Wim is married to the architect Alice Wiewel and together they have four children. Admirers of Portland’s eclectic cultural offerings and of Oregon’s amazing natural beauty, Wim and Alice take time to raft, camp and explore the mountains, coasts and deserts. They also attend lots of performances and games in town, and frequent community receptions and dinners.
Here’s more from our conversation with Wiewel regarding receiving this award …
Q: How did you feel upon accepting the award?
A: I felt very humble. Martin Meyerson was the president of Berkeley, Cornell, and Penn. I'm only on my second presidency, at Lewis and Clark College, after nine years at Portland State University. Both great schools, but I'm hardly in the same league as Meyerson!
Q: Who do you want to thank, if anyone?
A: I learned a lot about leadership from the late Rob Mier, who hired me at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I've been fortunate to have great co-authors and friends, such as Pierre Clavel, David Perry, Joe Persky, the late Dick Bingham, Sammis White, Ned Hill, Marie Howland, Genie Birch, Bruce Stiftel, Sandi Rosenbloom and others.
Providing leadership to academic institutions and being able to plan and implement change is very rewarding. I strongly believe that higher education institutions can make a difference in making their cities or regions economically strong, culturally vibrant, and socially just. It's exciting and wonderful to work on that.
Q: What's next?
A: I've been urging planning faculty for years to consider administrative careers. I think our skills as planners fit the role very well. We know how to create a participatory process to identify issues, develop solutions, negotiate conflict, and implement structures, processes, and resources to get things done. Having more planners involved in higher education administration would raise the profile of the discipline and be good for higher education and the world at large.