A Q&A With Wash. U. Administrators

Few people truly know the man behind the double-breasted suit and swanky “Chancellor” title. But who is this “Mark Wrighton” who is leading our great University? What do we actually know about the scientist whose most widely cited achievement is helping develop chemicals in a plastic light-up stick? Some of us have seen him at the local Steak ‘n Shake franchise, but what is he doing there? Is he looking for new contenders for a Connie’s Choice nutritious campus dining option, or is it something more nefarious?

Danielle Bristow, Director of First Year Center Programs

As briefly as possible, describe your job
Oversee programs and events that help new students and families with their transition to Wash U.

What do you like best about your job?
Helping new students and families navigate campus and working with the student leaders who make it all happen. The First Year Center Executive Board and WUSAs make my days fun and interesting.

What is your favorite memory of Washington University?
My very first Convocation. Seeing it all come together was amazing, especially watching the recessional of the platform party walking through the line of family members with bagpipes and torches.

Do you have any pets? If so, what kinds, and what are their names?
Two cats that are technically my daughter’s pets. Maggie and Niles.

What is your favorite movie of the last five years?
There are too many to name. The last movies in the theatre I really liked were the new Star Trek film and Ironman 3. I reserve going to the movies for action blockbusters.

What is your favorite thing to do in the St. Louis area?
Discovering new restaurants.

What would be your last meal?
Anything as long as my family was with me.

What public figure did you grow up idolizing?
James Dean. He and I share the same birthday. My freshman residence hall room was covered in pictures.

When you were 10 years old, what did you want to do with your life?
I think at 10 I wanted to be a veterinarian. Doesn’t everyone?

What would you say is your best feature?
My positive attitude and sense of humor. I see the good in everyone and everything and can find laughter in almost any situation.

Georgia Binnington, Associate Dean of Students, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

As briefly as possible, describe your job
I meet students when they are applying to the School, review portfolios, assist admissions, Advise first year students in art and architecture and participate in many university committees.

What do you like best about your job?
The best part of my job is listening to students and helping them.. the rewards are great.

What is your favorite memory of Washington University?
My favorite memory of Washington University right now is this past commencement when I celebrated my 50th reunion.

Do you have any pets? If so, what kinds, and what are their names?
I have one cat, Sullivan, the surviving member of the Gilbert and Sullivan team.

What is your favorite movie of the last five years?
My favorite movie is Moonrise kingdom., with Quartet as a close second.

What is your favorite thing to do in the St. Louis area?
Eat out–so many choices…and concerts at Sheldon Concert Hall

What would be your last meal?
My last meal would be my brisket or a pizza from Katie’s Pizzeria.

What public figure did you grow up idolizing?
I loved Katherine Hepburn and totally admired Martin Luther King.

When you were 10 years old, what did you want to do with your life?
When I was 10 years old I wanted to be a dancer.

What would you say is your best feature?
My best feature…ability to listen and get people to open up and share….often problems are solved by just talking it through.

Holden Thorp, Provost

As briefly as possible, describe your job
Provost. I’m the chief academic officer, which means I oversee the schools, library, and related administrative units. Think of me as Mr. Spock without the ears.

What do you like best about your job?
Hearing the exciting things that students and faculty are studying.

What is your favorite memory of Washington University?
Getting a call from Mark Wrighton to come here and help achieve his vision.

Do you have any pets? If so, what kinds, and what are their names?
Corgi named Porgi.

What is your favorite movie of the last five years?
Super 8. I made monster movies as a kid.

What is your favorite thing to do in the St. Louis area?
Unpack boxes.

What would be your last meal?
North Carolina vinegar barbecue, cole slaw, Brunswick stew, and a 1982 Haut Brion.

What public figure did you grow up idolizing?
Wynton Marsalis because he is great on his instrument but also a leader in the preservation of jazz.

When you were 10 years old, what did you want to do with your life?
Run a planetarium. I got to do it for 4 years in NC.

What would you say is your best feature?
I love learning new things that people are doing and studying. Tell me about your exciting projects, and I’ll get hype.

Jen Smith, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences

As briefly as possible, describe your job
Overseeing undergraduate education and academic advising in Arts&Sciences.

What do you like best about your job?
Learning what students are passionate about, and what has changed how they see the world.

What is your favorite memory of Washington University?
Carrying a (heavy!) torch behind the bagpipe players leading the Convocation procession last year

Do you have any pets? If so, what kinds, and what are their names?
Aspen is my two-year-old Great Pyrenees (dog). We walk on the South 40 a lot!

What is your favorite movie of the last five years?
The Hurt Locker. Gripping from start to finish.

What is your favorite thing to do in the St. Louis area?
Visiting the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market for local produce and meat.

What would be your last meal?
Fresh pasta and tomato sauce (my mom’s family recipe).

What public figure did you grow up idolizing?
Bono, from U2–they were doing a lot of benefit concerts, and I admired the idea of artists working for causes.

When you were 10 years old, what did you want to do with your life?
I think I wanted to be a fighter jet pilot, though that may have been more like age 12.

What would you say is your best feature?
My being unabashed about my nerdiness. You’ve got to just own it.

Mahendra Gupta, Dean of Olin Business School

As briefly as possible, describe your job
Dean of Olin Business School — ensuring best education and educational experience for our students; attracting top talent to Olin: world class faculty, talented and dedicated staff and top quality students; and developing strategies for a strong future of Olin.

What do you like best about your job?
Getting to know and learn from Olin community — students, alums, friends, faculty and staff.

What is your favorite memory of Washington University?
Graduation of my two children from Olin’s undergraduate program.

Do you have any pets? If so, what kinds, and what are their names?
Not any more, our last dog was Munchkin.

What is your favorite movie of the last five years?
3- Idiots — it’s an Indian movie about three aspiring engineers from a prestigious school in India.

What is your favorite thing to do in the St. Louis area?
Coming to work — sounds lame, but then I am an accountant.

What would be your last meal?
My wife’s home cooking.

What public figure did you grow up idolizing?
Mahatma Gandhi–he and his ideas continue to change the world.

When you were 10 years old, what did you want to do with your life?
Have a big “delicious food” business with factories and shops all over the country.

What would you say is your best feature?
Not giving up — Knowing limitation of my knowledge; accepting my mistakes; not hesitating to ask for help, and working to improve outcome continuously.

Mark Smith, Director of the Career Center

As briefly as possible, describe your job
I run the Career Center, supervise OISS, do prelaw advising, and teach a freshmen seminar.

What do you like best about your job?
Working one on one with students

What is your favorite memory of Washington University?
The excitement of the presidential and vice-presidential debates here.

Do you have any pets? If so, what kinds, and what are their names?
Charlie the dog and Hans Gruber and Charlotte (both cats)

What is your favorite movie of the last five years?
Up in the Air

What is your favorite thing to do in the St. Louis area?
Play poker

What would be your last meal?
BLT and chocolate/ banana shake at Crown Candy Kitchen

What public figure did you grow up idolizing?
I am not sure there were a lot of public figures to idolize in the 70s.

When you were 10 years old, what did you want to do with your life?
Botanist or lawyer

What would you say is your best feature?
I really like doing what I do here.

Mark Wrighton, Chancellor

As briefly as possible, describe your job
I am the chancellor of Washington University, the University’s Chief Executive Officer

What do you like best about your job?
Helping students and faculty realize their potential

What is your favorite memory of Washington University?
Hosting two presidential debates (2000, 2004) and one vice-presidential debate (2008)

Do you have any pets? If so, what kinds, and what are their names?
One dog, “Grace,” and one cat, “Purrfessor,” but my wife calls him “Maestro”

What is your favorite movie of the last five years?
“Air Force One”… I know it’s older, but the last year brought it back to life for me as Harrison Ford videotaped my introduction for our Los Angeles area campaign kickoff! Also check out one of my recent tweets @ChancellorWU

What is your favorite thing to do in the St. Louis area?
Following the St. Louis Cardinals

What would be your last meal?
Double steakburger and fries from Steak ‘n Shake

What public figure did you grow up idolizing?
President John F. Kennedy

When you were 10 years old, what did you want to do with your life?
Become a Major League Baseball pitcher

What would you say is your best feature?
Stamina, work ethic, and commitment to Washington University and its students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Sharon Stahl, Vice Chancellor for Students

As briefly as possible, describe your job
Vice-Chancellor for Students, the opportunity to work with students and all the people who make WashU home for them

What do you like best about your job?
Getting to know so many students by name and story and watching them make a niche for themselves in the WashU community.

What is your favorite memory of Washington University?
I have two: Watching Mr. Wash. U. and going to one of my advisee’s defense of his honor’s thesis.

Do you have any pets? If so, what kinds, and what are their names?
We always had dogs: Roscoe, our Neopolitan mastiff was my favorite. Now, no pets, but eight grandchildren, each of whom is the favorite.

What is your favorite movie of the last five years?
The King’s Speech and if we go beyond five years, Room with a View

What is your favorite thing to do in the St. Louis area?
Run in Forest Park

What would be your last meal?
The goat cheese, arugula and beet salad at The Crossing and the Kosher hot dogs at Busch Stadium.

What public figure did you grow up idolizing?
Eleanor Roosevelt, because she cared about social justice and was comfortable speaking her mind.

When you were 10 years old, what did you want to do with your life?
An astronaut. I wanted to be the first person to go to the moon. I had read Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars—Mars seemed too far so I settled on the moon.

What would you say is your best feature?
I like people and I especially enjoy working with students. I am inspired by their hopes and dreams and feel fulfilled if I can help those hopes and dreams along.

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As briefly as possible, describe your job


What do you like best about your job?


What is your favorite memory of Washington University?


Do you have any pets? If so, what kinds, and what are their names?


What is your favorite movie of the last five years?


What is your favorite thing to do in the St. Louis area?


What would be your last meal?


What public figure did you grow up idolizing?


When you were 10 years old, what did you want to do with your life?


What would you say is your best feature?