Washington University's first century and a half of progress has depended on many outstanding people, from its visionary founders Wayman Crow and William Greenleaf Eliot to its current community of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. The university has attracted talented and dedicated leaders to many key positions, and 13 have completed terms as chancellor, the chief executive officer of the university. The chancellor reports to the Board of Trustees but is accountable to the entire university community.
During my tenure as chancellor I have often been asked, "what does the chancellor do?" Many also ask, "who is the president of the university?" At Washington University, as in many other American universities, the chancellor is equivalent to president. In other parts of the world, however, the chancellor is a figurehead or titular leader, and it is the vice chancellor who is the campus chief executive.
The chancellor is the individual officially responsible for all operations of the university, but no chancellor has done much by himself. Indeed, like my predecessors, I have benefited enormously from the efforts of others from every sector of the university community, and I have had the special good fortune to have Chancellor William H. Danforth as a mentor and counselor.
Please explore the brief biographical sketches of the chancellors within the historical context of the challenges and accomplishments of their eras.
Each chancellor has faced different times and attendant challenges, and I am sure that each chancellor has held my view that it is a privilege to serve as doorkeeper for generations of talented students and faculty. It is my hope that those who look back on my chancellorship will see an era of growth in quality and impact of the work we do in education, research, creative expression and clinical care. This objective is the tradition of our chancellors and one I hope to sustain.
Mark S. Wrighton
1995 - Chancellor
During the celebration of Washington University's Sesquicentennial in 2003–2004, the 14th chancellor, Mark S. Wrighton, converted Brookings 300 — originally built as the University chapel — into the "Chancellors Room." Hanging in the room are portraits of the first 13 men to hold the title of chancellor.