The College of Charleston’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, to elect Andrew T. Hsu as the 23rd president of the university.
Hsu will succeed Interim President Stephen C. Osborne ’73, who took on the role of interim president July 1, 2018, following the retirement of Glenn F. McConnell ’69. His start date has not been determined yet.
“Dr. Hsu is an extraordinary individual – he is a scholar, a community builder, a fundraiser and a visionary leader,” said Board of Trustees Chair David Hay ’81 in a message to the campus community. “We were all impressed with Dr. Hsu’s experience, his accomplishments in forming industry partnerships, his commitment to diversity and his passion for the liberal arts. Over the course of the search process, Dr. Hsu has not only proven himself a great higher-education thinker, but also a great doer, with a track record of inspiring accomplishments across his career.”
Hsu (pronounced “shoe”) is currently the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at The University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio, where he has led a series of initiatives aimed at enhancing academic excellence and student success.
For Hsu, an immigrant from China, taking the helm of the oldest university south of Virginia is the embodiment of the American dream. He will become the first person of color in the College’s 248-year history to serve as president.
“I think that it’s quite amazing for someone like myself who came to this country as an immigrant and was received with open arms to eventually achieve my own American dream of being a university president,” said Hsu. “This can only happen in America.”
Hsu’s ascension to the upper echelon of higher education is particularly poignant because of his difficult childhood during the Cultural Revolution in China. Amid the turmoil, Hsu was denied an early education, something that shaped his appreciation for learning – specifically a liberal arts education.
“Because I lost the opportunity for a formal education early in my childhood, that makes me value education even more,” said Hsu. “And I’m really passionate about educating students, especially students who for various reasons could not get a good secondary education.”
Since joining The University of Toledo in 2016, Hsu has led the university through a strategic planning process, including initiatives to improve student retention and graduation. Through a campus-wide effort, the strategic plan implementation has resulted in significant progress in student success, research and scholarly activities, and fundraising: The university has improved its first-year retention rate by more than 10 percent and graduation rate by 5.5 percent, and research awards and fundraising at The University of Toledo are both up by 20 percent.
Prior to his post in Toledo, Hsu served as the dean of engineering at San Jose State University from 2013 to 2016 and as the associate vice president for research and the dean of the Graduate School at Wright State University from 2010 to 2013.
The College’s Board of Trustees, with assistance from the search firm of R. William Funk and Associates, launched a national search in February 2018 for the College’s next leader. Hsu rose to the top from a pool of more than 130 applicants.
“I am so pleased that we have selected Dr. Hsu to be our next president,” said Trustee Renee Romberger ’81, who chaired the Presidential Search Committee. “Throughout the process, Dr. Hsu’s intellect, understanding of the changing higher-education landscape and passion for the liberal arts inspired all of us. Dr. Hsu will be a great fit at the College. He is a world-class scholar and a visionary and transformational leader. I am looking forward to his leadership as we go into our 250th celebration.”
Hsu said he was attracted to the College because of its long history and rich tradition of providing a high-quality liberal arts education.
“Because of my childhood experience, I believe a well-rounded liberal arts education is extremely important to society, and it’s extremely important to democracy,” he said. “And the fact that the College of Charleston, as a pre-Revolution university, is one of the oldest in the U.S., that was extremely attractive to me. I wanted to be able to contribute to an institution with a history of offering a well-rounded liberal arts and sciences education.”
During his visit to campus as a finalist earlier this month, Hsu was impressed with the College’s seamless blend of historic buildings along with impressive, modern facilities. He said he was particularly impressed by the faculty’s commitment to academic excellence and the students’ excitement for learning.
“The quality and passion of the faculty is outstanding,” he said. “And the students are very passionate about learning. But what I was really impressed by in my conversations with student leaders was the fact that many students are very passionate about social justice issues.”
Hsu graduated from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. He then came to the United States where he earned a master’s degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology before completing his doctoral degree in aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech in 1986. He then worked in industry for 11 years with Sverdrup/NASA and Rolls Royce, where he developed unique industry perspectives and leadership skills. Hsu joined academia in 1997 as an associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the aerospace program at the University of Miami.
Hsu and his wife, Rongrong Chen, have four daughters, Carol, Kristie, Jenny and Emma.
As someone who appreciates the transformative power of education for students and the community, Hsu said he celebrates the College’s rich educational traditions and wants to help lead the institution to the next level of excellence in its long history.
“I want to carry forward the tradition of a liberal arts education at the College of Charleston, and enhance the institution’s niche and mission so that it shines on the national and international stage.”