Virginia Tech's Institute for Advanced Learning and Research has named Liam E. Leightley as executive director, effective Oct. 6, 2008, according to Mike Henderson, chair of the institute's board of trustees.

Leightly is currently the interim associate director of Mississippi State University’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center. He will replace the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research’s current interim executive director Jerry Niles, who has held the top job since former Executive Director Tim Franklin left last fall.

Hendrickson noted, "We are very pleased that Liam Leightley will be serving as the new executive director of the institute. He brings highly relevant experience in the administration of organizations in academia, the corporate sector and government, and the board is confident that he will be an outstanding leader as we move into a new era of expansion and growth at [the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research]."

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, which has an independent board of trustees, is part of a comprehensive collaborative strategy for Southside Virginia supported by Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. Commenting on Leightley's appointment, John E. Dooley, vice president for outreach and international affairs at Virginia Tech, said, "We look forward to Dr. Leightley's leadership at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. His experience in both the academy and private industry brings a unique perspective that is very relevant to the future of the Institute and its critical transformational mission in Southside."

Leightley, a native of the United Kingdom, has held both academic and university-related administrative positions at institutions here and abroad including the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., Australia's University of Queensland, Wisconsin's Forest Products Laboratory (the nation's leading wood research lab), and Mississippi State University.

Beginning in 1988, Leightley spent 15 years working for Rohm and Haas, one of the world's largest global specialty chemical companies. For seven of those years he held increasingly responsible positions developing strategic research programs in the United States and in Japan. From 1993 until he went to Mississippi State in 2003, Leightley’s positions at Rohm and Haas centered on global product development and brand marketing management, which ultimately led to his overseeing $100 million in sales.

At Mississippi State, Leightley headed their Department of Forest Products, leading the construction and up-fitting of a new $5 million furniture and manufacturing building. In 2006, he was named interim director of their Forest and Wildlife Center. Leightley currently chairs the Southern Alliance for the Utilization of Biomass Resources and co-chairs the South East Agriculture and Forestry Energy Resources Alliance. He serves on the Southern Technology Council and is a past director of the Institute for Furniture Manufacturing and Management (now known as the Franklin Furniture Institute).

Commenting on his appointment to the position at the institute, Leightley said, "I am looking forward to this very exciting opportunity to step into a position that will allow me to utilize my career expertise and managerial skills to work with a talented group of faculty and staff to tackle new challenges and address opportunities that will keep the momentum toward economic transformation moving forward."

Leightley earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Bradford, and a Ph.D. from the University of Portsmouth, both in the United Kingdom. The president of the Mississippi State University Chapter of the academic honor society Phi Kappa Phi, Leightley also holds a number of professional offices in addition to those mentioned here, and is a frequent contributor to professional symposia and conferences and has authored numerous articles in technical and professional journals.

Leightley and his wife Cosette have three grown children – two daughters and a son – and one grandchild.

This article was written by Deborah Morehead.

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