After Six Years, Maeda Leaving RISD

Dec 5, 2013

Faculty from the Rhode Island School of Design say they’re not surprised that President John Maeda is stepping down, but they were surprised by the timing of his announcement.

Maeda, in a YouTube video, announced Wednesday that he is leaving at the end of the semester, for a job at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.

In a written statement, RISD credits Maeda with increasing scholarship funding and applications during his six-year tenure. He also worked to raise the school’s public profile, with appearances at numerous national and international conferences, and a campaign to promote the role of the arts in science and technology education.

But from the start of his presidency, Maeda struggled to connect with RISD faculty. Coming from a position at MIT’s Media Lab, he appeared slow to embrace the culture at RISD. Many professors complained that Maeda relied too heavily on technological gimmicks, which sometimes interfered with their ability to feel a personal connection.

RISD Board Chair Michael Spalter says Maeda was a “visionary and passionate leader for RISD over the past six years.”

The board plans to begin an immediate search for Maeda’s successor, and in the meantime, will work with Provost Rosanne Somerson and Chief Operating Officer Jean Eddy to oversee the transition.