David W. Leebron became Rice University’s seventh president in 2004. Under Leebron’s guidance, the institution has undergone a period of growth and transformation. Over the past fourteen years, the university has increased its undergraduate student population, enhanced the vibrancy of the campus with $800 million in new construction, extended its research endeavors and international presence, deepened its relationship with its home city of Houston, and earned greater visibility locally, nationally and internationally.
Early in his presidency, Leebron engaged in extensive consultations that produced the Vision for the Second Century (V2C), a plan for Rice’s growth and advancement as one of the world’s premier research universities. As Rice enters the next phase of strategic planning, the Vision for the Second Century/Second Decade (V2C2), the university is well positioned for its second hundred years.
Perhaps the biggest change has occurred in undergraduate enrollment, which has increased 30 percent since 2004. The number of applications received for fall 2018 set a record at approximately 21,000. President Leebron, as part of the V2C2, also introduced The Rice Investment - groundbreaking financial aid initiatives for the middle class, offering free and reduced tuition and fees to families in America's largest economic class. International applicants have increased fivefold, and undergraduate and graduate students now come from more than 90 countries.
International experience is an important part of Leebron’s mission to provide students with a holistic education. Much like Rice’s first president, Edgar Odell Lovett, Leebron brought a powerful international vision to the post and has actively reached out to Asia and Latin America. New study abroad programs in Argentina and India have been added, along with study and research opportunities in China, Brazil and Turkey.
Under Leebron’s leadership, the campus has added two new residential colleges; the 10-story BioScience Research Collaborative, where scientists and educators from Rice and other Texas Medical Center institutions work together; a new state-of-the-art recreation and wellness center; an additional food servery; a central campus pavilion that serves as a meeting and study place; an updated sports arena; a new physics building; the Moody Center for the Arts; and the Rice Public Art Program, a presidential initiative that has added beautiful art across campus.
Leebron has welcomed the Dalai Lama, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Indian President Abdul Kalam, former Houston Mayor and Rice alumna Annise Parker, a delegation of Chinese educational leaders on only the third U.S. trip of its kind, and hundreds of other global political and academic leaders.
Prior to taking the helm at Rice, Leebron was dean of Columbia Law School. A native of Philadelphia, he is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was elected president of the Law Review in his second year. After graduating in 1979, he served as a law clerk for Judge Shirley Hufstedler on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Los Angeles. He began teaching at the UCLA School of Law in 1980 and at the NYU School of Law in 1983.
In 1989, Leebron joined the faculty of Columbia Law School, and in 1996 he was appointed dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law. Leebron also served as a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg, Germany, and as the Jean Monnet Visiting Professor of Law at Bielefeld University. He is currently part of the political science faculty at Rice and has authored a textbook on international human rights.
In 2006, Leebron was awarded France’s Commandeur de l’Ordre national du Mérite, and the Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel La Catolica by the government of Spain. In 2008, he received an honorary doctorate from Nankai University. In 2010, Leebron and his wife, University Representative Y. Ping Sun, were selected by the Greater Houston Partnership as the city’s International Executives of the Year for helping make Houston a center of international business.
Leebron and Sun have two children, Daniel and Mei.