Rice University has introduced its next president.

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Earlier this month, the university named Reginald DesRoches as its next president. He will become the eighth president in the university’s history when he takes the post next summer.

DesRoches will succeed President David Leebron, who announced his plan to step down next summer after the end of the current academic year.

“I am deeply honored to be named the next president of Rice University,” DesRoches said. “The past 4 1/2 years at Rice have been among the most rewarding in my professional career and I look forward to building on the tradition of excellence established by President Leebron and those who served before him.”

DesRoches is described by the university as being an internationally recognized structural engineer and earthquake resilience expert.

“I am excited to continue working with the university’s outstanding faculty, students, staff, alumni and community partners to grow the visibility and impact of our research and dedication to the greater good,” DesRoches said. “I look forward to maintaining our commitment to excellence in undergraduate and graduate education as well as our core values of diversity, equity and inclusion. I firmly believe Rice is poised and well-positioned to reach even greater heights of impact and excellence.”

DesRoches has been at Rice since 2017 when he accepted the post as the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering at the George R. Brown School of Engineering. As the leader of Rice’s engineering school, he oversaw nine departments, 137 faculty and 2,500 students. During his time as dean, the school increased in size, visibility and program rankings, according to the university.

According to a release sent by Rice, DesRoches has been provost since Leebron appointed him as the university’s chief academic officer in 2020. As provost, he has led the university’s academic, research, scholarly and creative activities through the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the sudden suspension of classroom instruction and Rice’s successful conversion to remote learning. In less than two years, he has not only dramatically increased the university’s research awards and launched several new centers and institutes but also forged new partnerships and programs with institutions and organizations throughout the Houston area, including the Texas Medical Center.

“Reggie DesRoches is an outstanding choice as Rice’s next president,” Leebron said. “I have had the privilege of working closely with Reggie over the last 4 1/2 years, first in his capacity as dean of engineering and then as provost, and observed firsthand his extraordinary leadership, values, thoughtfulness and ambition for Rice. I am confident he will fully achieve the aspirations of our ‘Be Bold’ campaign, and take Rice to new heights of achievement and impact.”

He said he has received about 1,500 congratulatory emails, including from older people who told him they recall when Rice first admitted black students in 1964.

“When they were of age, they couldn’t come to Rice. And to see somebody that looks like them, that’s gonna be president, was emotional to them,” he said.

DesRoches teared up at the official announcement. He said he was thinking about his parents.

“You think about all the sacrifices they’ve made and how hard I’ve worked trying to honor all they’ve done for us and to hear that announcement officially was emotional,” he said.

Among his goals, he said, is to focus on growing research enterprises, expanding graduate programs, and diversifying the faculty.

History before Rice

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Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, DesRoches was raised in the New York City borough of Queens. He’s the youngest of four children to Haitian immigrants.

A boyhood love of science and math encouraged him to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

While studying at the University of California, Berkeley, DesRoches witnessed the damage wrought by the historic 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. That experience led him to focus on earthquake resiliency as he pursued his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in structural engineering at Berkeley.

Before his appointment at Rice, DesRoches served as chair of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. As chair, he led a major renovation of the school’s main research and teaching home, and he spearheaded a major fundraising effort for the school that doubled the number of endowed chairs and professors. During his tenure, the engineering school’s U.S News & World Report graduate rankings rose dramatically, reaching No. 2 in the nation — the highest in the school’s history.

DesRoches’ wife, Paula, is the director of employee health and occupational medicine at Houston Methodist. They have three children: Andrew, Jacob and Shelby. Their daughter, Shelby, is a Rice student in the Class of ’23.

Now 54, DesRoches and his wife have three college-age children, including a bioengineering major at Rice.


Reginald DesRoches

Reginald DesRoches
Reginald DesRoches.jpg
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Born April 30, 1967 (age 54)

Nationality American
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Awards ASCE Fellow (2016)
National Academy of Engineering (2020)
Scientific career
Fields civil engineering
Institutions Rice University, Georgia Tech

Reginald DesRoches (born April 30, 1967) is a civil engineer and, as of July 1, 2020, serves as the Howard Hughes Provost at Rice University. From 2017 to 2020, he served as the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering at the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice. From 2012 to 2017, he served as the Karen and John Huff Chair at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

DesRoches was elected as a member into the National Academy of Engineering in 2020 “for research and design of resilient infrastructure systems to mitigate damage from natural disasters and other extreme conditions”

On November 11, 2021, Rice announced that DesRoches will take over as University President following the departure of David Leebron. DesRoches will assume this new role on July 1, 2022.

Early life & career

Reginald DesRoches was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and grew up in Queens, New York City. He attended St. Francis Preparatory High School in New York City and the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1990, a Master of Science in Civil Engineering in 1992, and a doctorate in Structural Engineering in 1998. In 2015, he was inducted into UC Berkeley’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni.

Georgia Institute of Technology

During his tenure as Karen and John Huff School Chair at Georgia Tech, DesRoches guided the development of a new minor in global engineering leadership[6] open to all Georgia Tech engineering undergraduates, doubled the number of named chairs/professors,[7] led a strategic interdisciplinary research initiative,[8] developed a Corporate Affiliates Program,[9] and led a comprehensive strategic planning process.[10] He also oversaw a $13.5 million renovation of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s main facility, the Jesse W. Mason Building. In 2014, he became Georgia Tech’s Faculty Athletics Representative, serving as the liaison between the Institute and the Athletics Association. As Faculty Athletics Representative, he worked closely with the Athletic Director and university leadership — including the president, provost, and senior vice provost for academic affairs — to formulate policies affecting intercollegiate athletics on campus. His responsibilities also include representing the Institute to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He was appointed to the ACC leadership team as vice president of the conference for 2016-2017.

Rice University

At Rice University, DesRoches serves as the chief academic officer of Rice and its 7,500 students, eight schools and more than 700 faculty. He previously served as the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering at the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice. In this position, DesRoches provided leadership to a top-ranked engineering school with nine departments, 137 faculty and 2,500 students.

His research interests include the design of resilient infrastructure systems under extreme loads and the application of smart and auto-adaptive materials. He has published some 300 articles and delivered more than 100 presentations in 30 countries.

A fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the society’s Structural Engineering Institute (SEI), DesRoches served as the key technical leader in the response of the United States to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, taking a team of 28 engineers, architects, city planners and social scientists to study the impact of the earthquake. He has participated in numerous congressional briefings to underscore the role university research plays in addressing the failing infrastructure in the U.S.and enhancing its resilience to natural hazards. DesRoches has served as thesis adviser to 30 doctoral candidates and 17 master’s students.


DesRoches chairs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Construction Safety Team Advisory Committee (NCST) and is on the advisory board for the National Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) Simulation Center and the California Department of Transportation Seismic Advisory Board. He previously served on the National Academies Resilient America Roundtable (RAR), the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Advisory Committee and the Global Earthquake Modeling Scientific Board.

DesRoches has testified before U.S. House and Senate subcommittees on the science of earthquake resilience, and has participated in Washington, D.C. roundtables for media and congressional staffers on topics ranging from disaster preparedness to challenges for African-American men in STEM fields. National media outlets frequently contact him for expert analysis following earthquake events, including CNNCNN International, LiveScience and National Geographic.

DesRoches received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2002— the highest honor bestowed upon scientists and engineers early in their careers. He was a recipient of the 2015 ASCE Charles Martin Duke Lifeline Earthquake Engineering Award, the Georgia Tech Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Adviser Award (2010), the 2007 ASCE Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize, and the Georgia Tech ANAK Award (2008), the highest honor the undergraduate student body can bestow on a Georgia Tech faculty member. In 2019, he was a recipient of the Distinguished Arnold Kerr Lecturer Award. He gave the John A. Blume Distinguished Lecture in 2018 and that same year received the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute Distinguished Lecturer Award, one of the highest honors in the earthquake engineering field. in 2020, DesRoches was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

On November 11, 2021, it was announced that DesRoches will be the President of Rice University, beginning on July 1, 2022.

Notable awards and honors

  • 2020 National Academy of Engineering Member
  • 2019 Outstanding TMS Paper Award (The Masonry Society)
  • 2019 Arnold D. Kerr Distinguished Lecture
  • 2018 Earthquake Engineering Research Institute Distinguished Lecturer Award
  • 2018 John A. Blume Distinguished Lecturer, Stanford University
  • 2016 Elected, Fellow, Structural Engineering Institute
  • 2015 Elected, Fellow, American Society of Civil Engineers
  • 2015 Inducted into UC Berkeley Civil & Environmental Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni
  • 2015 American Society of Civil Engineers Charles Martin Duke Lifeline Earthquake Engineering Award
  • 2012 Georgia Engineer of the Year in Education Award (Georgia Engineering Alliance)
  • 2011 Richard Carroll Distinguished Lecturer, Johns Hopkins University
  • 2010 Shah Family Fund Lecture, Stanford University