RISD provost to serve as interim president after Maeda’s departure
ROSANNE SOMERSON, the Rhode Island School of Design provost, will take over as interim president effective Jan. 1, following John Maeda's decision to accept a position with Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
COURTESY RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN/DAVID O'CONNOR
PROVIDENCE – Rosanne Somerson, provost at the Rhode Island School of Design, has been named interim president by RISD’s board of trustees, effective Jan. 1.
Somerson, who succeeds departing President John Maeda and became provost after an international search in 2012, is an acclaimed furniture designer with deep roots at RISD – starting as a student and moving on to alumna, professor and academic leader.
The board of trustees will begin a search for the institution’s 17th president in January.
Somerson was instrumental in the creation of RISD’s 2012–17 strategic plan, “Critical Making, Making Critical.” She is also co-editor with Mara L. Hermano of the recently published “The Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice,” for which Maeda wrote the forward.
“Provost Somerson is an inspiring, passionate and dedicated leader for RISD,” noted RISD Board of Trustees Chair Michael Spalter in a statement. “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 said in a statement she is honored “by the trust in me demonstrated by RISD’s board of trustees.”
“As we search for our next president, I will work diligently with everyone in the RISD community to honor this trust,” she said. “I am fortunate to partner with Chief Operating Officer Jean Eddy, who brings great expertise and experience, all of which are invaluable to RISD.”
Somerson said she will consult with the faculty and academic leadership before naming 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 then to head the department of furniture design. She served as interim associate provost for academic affairs from 2005–07 and as interim provost during the 2011–12 academic year.
Somerson also 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 in Boston.
Several trustees expressed enthusiasm for Somerson’s appointment, including Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn, board vice chairwoman, alumna and artist, and Susan Dryfoos, RISD parent, Academy Award and Pulitzer Prize nominee, member of educational and cultural boards including PEN USA and the New York Urban League.
“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,” said Pevaroff-Cohn. “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.”