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Olin College President Rick Miller Plans to Step Down

Olin’s longtime president and first employee, Richard K. Miller, is stepping down from his role on June 30, 2020, after 21 years leading the unique engineering college. A national search for his replacement is currently underway.

“It has been the greatest privilege of my career to play a leading role in the establishment of Olin College,” said Miller. “When I first arrived, Olin College was not yet a place — it was still a vision and an aspiration of the F.W. Olin Foundation. An opportunity to create something as important as this happens much less frequently than once in a lifetime.

“This remarkable institution has grown in ways we never could have imagined when I first arrived,” Miller continued. “I am tremendously proud of our exceptional faculty, students and staff who have worked with me to turn this bold experiment in educational innovation into a reality.”

Miller was appointed in 1999 after the F.W. Olin Foundation announced plans to create a college from scratch by making what was, at that time, one of the largest gifts to a single institution in history. Olin College started as an experiment to educate engineers differently. At the time, the typical engineering student received a thorough technical education but lacked the necessary teamwork, project design and communication skills needed in industry. In just 20 short years, the principles on which an Olin education is founded—design thinking, collaborative teamwork and a gender-balanced student population—are now widely emulated throughout the world in engineering and STEM institutions.

Olin College is currently No. 3 on the US News and World Report rankings for undergraduate engineering education, is listed consistently in Princeton Review’s Best Colleges Guide and was recently named in a report commissioned by MIT as a top leader in engineering education globally. Olin is also named regularly to the list of top producers of Fulbright scholars.

Miller, together with two Olin colleagues, received the 2013 Bernard M. Gordon Prize from the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. The Gordon Prize is one of engineering’s highest honors, as it recognizes innovation in engineering and technical education. Miller also received the Brock International Prize in Education for his many contributions to the reinvention of engineering education in the 21st century. In 2011, Miller earned a Marlowe Award for creative and distinguished administrative leadership from the American Society of Engineering Education.

Ken Stokes, chair of the Olin Board of Trustees, noted, “While Rick’s leadership role in the creation and development of Olin is obvious, it is harder to calculate the effect he has had on undergraduate engineering education more broadly, but it has clearly been significant. He is a transformational leader who, with the help of a dedicated community, developed a new educational model that produces highly competent but also well-rounded, socially conscious engineers. His passion and dedication to Olin have been limitless. But Rick has also devoted the past two decades to sharing what Olin has learned with engineering educators around the world. The Olin community will be eternally grateful for his visionary and selfless leadership.”

During the past 10 years of Miller’s presidency, more than 2,800 individual visitors representing more than 830 educational and other institutions from around the world have visited Olin through its Collaboratory program, where educators looking to spark change in their own institutions come to Olin for inspiration and guidance.

A native of California, Miller earned his B.S. in aerospace engineering from the University of California, Davis, where he later received a 2002 Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award. He earned his M.S. from MIT and his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, where he received, in 2014, the Caltech Distinguished Alumni Award. Prior to joining Olin, Miller was the dean of engineering at the University of Iowa and, before that, associate dean of engineering at the University of Southern California.

In his email to the community about his plans, Miller said Olin is “full of exciting opportunities for expanding our impact and leadership as an institution, not only in the transformation of engineering education, where the work is not finished, but in other areas as well. For Olin there is more—and new—work to be done.” 

The Board of Trustees has engaged an executive search firm and convened a search committee to conduct the search for Miller’s successor.