RISD President Somerson announces plan to retire in June

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FILE – In this May 30, 2015, file photo Rhode Island School of Design President Rosanne Somerson poses for a photo at commencement ceremonies in Providence, R.I. RISD announced Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, that Somerson plans to retire in June 2021, at the end of the academic year. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The president of the Rhode Island School of Design plans to retire in June at the end of the current academic year, the school announced Tuesday.

Rosanne Somerson has been president of the school for about five years, but her roots at the prestigious art and design school date to her undergraduate days in the 1970s.

She returned to campus in 1985 to teach furniture design and founded RISD’s furniture design department in 1995. She was named provost in 2012 and president in 2015.

“During her distinguished tenure, she has bolstered RISD’s reputation as the premier college of art and design in the U.S. and around the globe with faculty, students and alumni being recognized with prestigious accolades and attention,” the school’s trustees said in a statement.

This year during the coronavirus pandemic she had to deal with a $50 million budget deficit, which led to negotiated faculty salary cuts. Her time as president was also marked by the announcement that the school would hire 10 faculty members with expertise on race and ethnicity in arts and design and increase student diversity.

The trustees will hire a search firm to help find Somerson’s successor.

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