2011-present: Stephen E. Thorsett
Stephen E. Thorsett was born in New Haven, Conn., and moved to Salem, Ore., at the age of two. He earned a number of fellowships and other honors while completing his master’s and doctorate in physics at Princeton and his bachelor’s in mathematics with honors at Carleton College, from which he graduated summa cum laude. He is an internationally recognized physicist who brings to Willamette more than two decades of experience as a scholar, teacher and academic leader. Prior to his arrival at Willamette, Thorsett was a professor and former department chair at the University of California, Santa Cruz, serving most recently as the dean of its Division of Physical and Biological Sciences. During his academic career, Thorsett has taught broadly in both physics and astronomy and has authored or co-authored more than 100 scientific papers focusing on the late stages of stellar evolution. Among his many accomplishments, Thorsett co-discovered the oldest known planet, popularly dubbed “the Methuselah planet.” Thorsett’s appointment as Willamette University’s 25th president on July 1, 2011, marks a return to his hometown. He is the son of Karen and Grant Thorsett, a longtime Willamette University biology professor. Thorsett graduated from South Salem High School, where four years on the cross country team led him to a lifetime of running. Among many other races, he’s participated in two Hood to Coast Relays, two marathons and a triathlon.