Former Rep. Heather Wilson, a New Mexico Republican, has been named president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, according to the school’s website.
Heather Wilson, a former member of Congress, Rhodes Scholar and small business owner who has worked with large defense and scientific companies, will become the 19th president of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, the South Dakota Board of Regents announced Thursday.
Wilson succeeds the late Robert Wharton, who passed away in September. She will begin her duties on the Rapid City campus on or about June 17, and will become the first female president in the school’s 128-year history. Since last fall, Duane Hrncir, provost and vice president for academic affairs on the Mines campus, has served as the acting president.
“Heather Wilson is a high-energy leader who brings exceptional communication skills and public-sector experience to her new position,” said Regent Terry Baloun, chair of the search committee. “At a time when higher education increasingly must make its case for more external funding and sustained research support from the federal and private sectors, our search committee took particular note of Dr. Wilson’s Capitol Hill experience, as well as her connections to decision makers in Washington and throughout the scientific research community,” Baloun said. “We are excited to have her join our team,” he said.
In the press release, Wilson said she was excited about becoming a “hardrocker,” the school’s mascot.
“Higher education is facing serious challenges,” Wilson said. “The South Dakota School of Mines is showing how great schools can meet those challenges. Mines provides a rigorous, world-class education that prepares graduates for leadership in science and engineering at a price families can afford. It’s a great school and I’m very proud to be the newest Hardrocker.”
The school is in South Dakota’s Black Hills region in the southwest corner of the state. The move is surely somewhat bittersweet for Wilson, a New Hampshire native who often professed her love of New Mexico during her decade in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1998-2009. She lost a bid for the U.S. Senate to Democrat Martin Heinrich in last year’s general election.