Rice University taps next president. He was born in Haiti

Haiti-born earthquake skilled Reginald DesRoches on a visit to Haiti right after the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake. Sporting a challenging hat, he is viewed listed here speaking about choices with the ministry of justice. DesRoches has been named the first Black and immigrant to head Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Reginald DesRoches, a Haiti-born engineer with ties to South Florida and his native Haiti, is generating university historical past following getting named the to start with Black and the initial immigrant to serve as president of Rice College in Houston, Texas.

DesRoches, 55, an earthquake resilience professional who flew to Port-au-Prince to volunteer his time and expertise immediately after Haiti’s devastating 2010 quake, was chosen by Rice’s Board of Trustees after a nationwide search for an educational leader to direct the school.

“I am just so honored and thrilled to be the subsequent president of Rice and just very pleased, to arrive from in which I arrive from,” DesRoches said in a Miami Herald job interview. “It speaks volumes to the roles that universities engage in in reworking life it is unquestionably transformed my lifetime and my family’s existence. I couldn’t have been prouder.”

Now serving as provost of Rice, DesRoches will realize success President David Leebron, who earlier declared his program to move down future summer season immediately after the stop of the present-day tutorial calendar year. DesRoches will be the school’s eighth president it its 109-calendar year record when he starts off his new part on July 1, 2022.

“We have uncovered a leader who is inspirational and universally highly regarded, a chief who is visionary, strategic and type. We are happy to welcome Reginald DesRoches as our university’s subsequent president,” stated Robert Ladd, chairman of the Rice Board of Trustees.

Desroches joins the ranks of folks like Haiti-born C. Reynold Verret, who in 2016 was installed as president of Xavier University in Louisiana, and Harry E. Dumay, president of the College of Our Girl of the Elms. In 2017 Dumay was appointed head of the four-calendar year non-public school in Chicopee, Massachusetts. A few Haitian Us citizens also head local community faculties in the U.S.

“Reginald DesRoches’s accession to guide Rice University is a trigger for celebration and an illustration to many,” Verret said. “It is also a reminder of the reservoir of talent and means within just the Haitian diaspora, as a useful resource that could aid Haiti in its motion ahead.”

DesRoches is applied to breaking racial and cultural barriers. In 2017, he turned to initial Black dean of any office at Rice when he acknowledged the occupation as the William and Stephanie Ill Dean of Engineering at the George R. Brown School of Engineering. For the duration of his time as dean, the school increased in sizing, visibility and application rankings, the college said in a launch asserting his choice as its next president.

Three years later on, DesRoches was appointed provost, once again the initial Black human being to keep the position. He was recruited from Ga Tech in Atlanta, where by he was the first Black chair of the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Whilst at Georgia Tech, the engineering school’s U.S Information & Entire world Report graduate rankings rose radically, achieving No. 2 in the country — the highest in the school’s history.

“For these of us who are Black, or other less than-represented minorities, as we transfer up the ranks, we normally have to break limitations,” DesRoches mentioned. His choice, he additional, “speaks to the electrical power of education of how a lot Haitians anxiety training, how important it is. Our moms and dads converse about, ‘you’ve acquired to get a excellent training and go to university.’ It is because they know that this is what’s likely to modify our lives and give options that they didn’t have.”

Born in Port-au-Prince, DesRoches was a year outdated when he and his a few older siblings, Lionel, Magalie and Pascal, fled Haiti in the late 1960s with their mother and father, Marie Therese and Jean Alfred DesRoches. The family members settled in Queens, New York, wherever DesRoches graduated from high faculty and then went to the University of California, Berkeley, where he acquired a few engineering levels.

He has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, a Master of Science in Civil Engineering and a doctorate in Structural Engineering.

His oldest brother, Lionel, is a nephrologist at New York College sibling Pascal presently serves as chief money officer of AT&T and sister Magalie “Maggie” Austin is senior adviser to New York Mayor Monthly bill de Blasio and director of the Mayor’s Business of Minority and Girls Business enterprise Enterprises.

“My moms and dads labored two work opportunities the wide bulk of their life so that we can have these chances. This is why they did it, to see issues like this,” Reginald DesRoches stated.

During his tenure as provost, DesRoches established the Office environment of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and numerous new majors. DesRoches and his spouse, Paula, have 3 youngsters. His daughter is at present enrolled at Rice and will graduate in 2023.

After Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, which still left a lot more than 300,000 useless and wrecked most of Port-au-Prince and its encompassing communities, DesRoches flew to the Caribbean country to help with engineering challenges.

“I am past very pleased of my brother,” Magalie Austin explained of Reginald DesRoches. “He is the smartest, kindest, funniest and most giving individual. In a household of overachievers.”

His mom, Marie Therese, died 10 a long time in the past and his father, Jean Alfred, 89, life in South Florida, wherever Magalie and her husband, Dr. Jean-Philippe Austin, a radiation oncologist, are lively in Haitian-American and Democratic causes and empowering the neighborhood neighborhood. In 2011, they both hosted President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, at their South Florida residence all through a $35,800-a-plate 2011 fundraiser through Obama’s second presidential bid.

This story was originally printed November 12, 2021 3:32 PM.

Profile Image of Jacqueline Charles

Jacqueline Charles has documented on Haiti and the English-talking Caribbean for the Miami Herald for in excess of a 10 years. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for her coverage of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, she was awarded a 2018 Maria Moors Cabot Prize — the most prestigious award for protection of the Americas.