Rhode Island School of Design to Install Alumna Rosanne Somerson as the College's 17th President on October 9, 2015

September 29, 2015

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) will hold a formal ceremony to inaugurate Rosanne Somerson [RISD BFA ’76] as the college’s 17th president on Friday, October 9, 2015 at 2 pm EST at Roger Williams National Memorial, 282 North Main Street, Providence, RI.

The first alumna to lead the country’s premier college of art and design, Somerson is an accomplished designer, educator and administrator with deep roots at RISD. She was named president by RISD’s Board of Trustees on February 18, 2015 following an extensive global search duri­­ng which she served as interim president for 14 months.

The official investiture ceremony, which takes place under a tent at the historic national park just north of campus, is open to the public. Featured speakers include MacArthur Award-winning artists Kara Walker [RISD MFA ’94] and Janine Antoni [RISD MFA ’89]; acclaimed designer and RISD Trustee Nicole Miller [RISD ’73]; Tate Modern Director and RISD parent Chris Dercon; RI Governor Gina Raimondo; U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse; and Brown University President Christina Paxson.

An outdoor afterparty will follow at 4 pm, featuring artwork and performances throughout the central campus.

In celebration of President Somerson’s inauguration, the RISD Museum is offering free admission from October 6 through October 11 and will remain open until 6 pm the day of the ceremony.

The inauguration celebration is the cornerstone of RISD by Design 2015, an annual three-day gathering that brings alumni and parents to campus. Highlights of the weekend include a keynote address by studio artist Adam Silverman[RISD BArch ’88] of Heath Ceramics in Los Angeles; a talk by James Carpenter [RISD BFA ’72]; RISD Craft, a juried sales exhibition of alumni and student work on Benefit Street; the dedication of the newly-renovated Illustration Studies Building; hands-on workshops and demonstrations; open studios; and more.

“Given the growing global embrace of the role of artists and designers in the 21st century, President Somerson offers a beacon of inspiration to young talent worldwide,” notes Board of Trustees Chair Michael Spalter. “As the first alumna to serve as president, she embodies the spirit and essence of our community. President Somerson leads with a depth of knowledge and an instinctive understanding of RISD that will enable her to forge a path forward into uncharted territory with vision, grace, humility and integrity.”

Since stepping in as interim president in January 2014, Somerson has worked to enhance academic excellence by focusing on integrated planning and creating more efficient and sustainable operating models that make better use of resources and allow for historically low tuition increases. Her fundraising efforts support increased access through scholarships, innovation in teaching through program and faculty development, and facilities enhancements and advances that further RISD’s immersive, hands-on learning model.

“I am honored to be RISD’s 17th president, charged with leading this historic institution into the future, building on its storied legacy and advancing ambitious plans for programs, facilities, and global partnerships,” remarks President Somerson. “As a RISD alumna, I know the value of an art and design education and I am confident that RISD’s model of immersive, studio-based learning is more vital now than ever. As president, I will encourage our extraordinary community of faculty scholars and practitioners to help prepare our students to work with the tools, materials and opportunities of the future.”

Details about the inauguration, along with an overview of President Somerson’s career, are available at president.risd.edu.The ceremony will be available online after the event. Everyone is invited to join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #RISDInauguration.

About President Somerson
Rosanne Somerson earned a BFA from RISD in 1976. After returning to RISD in 1985 as a faculty member, she taught furniture and industrial design for a decade before helping to establish the college’s Furniture Design department in 1995, which she led for the next 16 years. Somerson served as interim associate provost from 2005–07 and as interim provost during the 2011–12 academic year, before being named provost after an international search. In addition to her academic roles at RISD, she has maintained her own furniture design practice since 1979. Her award-winning work has been exhibited at galleries and museums around the world and is included in many private, corporate and museum collections, notably at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Smith College Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery and many others. Somerson has lectured extensively throughout the world, received numerous grants, awards and citations, and has consulted on creative practice in industry and higher education.