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George Mason University has chosen David Wu, the dean of Lehigh University’s engineering school, to replace Peter Stearns as its provost and executive vice president, the university’s search committee announced Tuesday.

Wu will start at Mason on July 1, taking on the role of chief academic officer for the school. As provost, Wu will oversee the university’s curriculum and research development, faculty recruitment and academic policy.

“Dr. Wu is a leader who understands what it takes to build a great university in today’s competitive marketplace,” Mason president Angel Cabrera said in a statement.

Wu comes to Fairfax from Bethlehem, Pa., where he spent a 27-year career at Lehigh. For the past 10 years, he has served as dean of the P.S. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Lehigh is much smaller than Mason, its enrollment barely topping 7,000 students compared to Mason’s 33,000-plus. Still, Wu plays a large role at Lehigh, where more than 40 percent of undergraduates major in engineering and 65 percent of the graduate programs are part of the engineering school.

Wu will succeed Peter Stearns, who has served as Mason’s provost since 2000. Stearns has led the university through a boom in enrollment of more than 10,000 students, as well as growth in international initiatives, such as the South Korea campus it opened earlier this month.

Stearns will continue at Mason as a history professor after stepping down as provost.

“I admire the great accomplishments by Peter Stearns and am humbled by the big shoes I must now fill,” Wu said.

Though Stearns originally planned to leave the provost position in the summer of 2013, he stayed on an extra year to help ease the transition from former president Alan Merten, who retired in the summer of 2012, to Cabrera.

In September 2013, the university formed a search committee to find Stearns’ replacement. The committee received 70 applications for the position, which the 16 committee members narrowed to four finalists by the end of January.

The committee members were impressed by Wu’s success in creating multidisciplinary programs at Lehigh. He worked to build 12 new cross-cutting degree options, connecting the engineering school with programs in arts and business. The links to other academic areas also boosted the school’s research scope and budget.

“You’re equipping young people with multiple perspectives of thinking, to take a holistic view in solving the world’s problems,” Wu said in a statement.

On his part, Wu was drawn by Mason’s commitment to work within, not apart from, larger economy and society. During a presentation to Mason administration, faculty and students as part of the selection process, Wu cited Cabrera’s ambition to make George Mason not the “best university in the world” but the “best university for the world.”

“Mason’s bold, innovative approach is absolutely what we need in higher education right now,” Wu said.

Wu earned a doctorate in industrial engineering in 1987 and a master’s in 1985 in the same subject, both from Pennsylvania State University. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Tunghai University in Taiwan in 1981.



kyanchulis@fairfaxtimes.com