Former Rice President David Leebron named incoming president, CEO of Texas 2036

Leebron to remain a member of Rice faculty and continue teaching on campus

David Leebron

Former Rice University President David Leebron will join the nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy organization Texas 2036 as its new president and CEO. He will succeed Margaret Spellings, former U.S. secretary of education.

Committed to building long-term, data-driven strategies to ensure Texas’ prosperity through its bicentennial and beyond, Texas 2036 is a comprehensive statewide nonpartisan institute that develops long-term solutions grounded in thorough research and focuses on issues critical to the lives and livelihoods of all Texans.

David Leebon
David Leebron

“I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the impressive and dedicated team that Texas 2036 founder Tom Luce and Margaret Spellings assembled, and I am honored that the board from across the state selected me as its next president and CEO,” Leebron said. “In today’s polarized political environment, Texas 2036 plays a critical role in bringing people together to advance nonpartisan policies, based on data and research, that address issues vitally important to the future of this state and its people. I am inspired and excited to take on this next challenge and contribute more broadly to the state of Texas and look forward to building on the momentum and impact already achieved.”

An esteemed leader and legal scholar, Leebron brings more than 20 years of proven experience building impactful organizations at the highest levels. During his tenure at Rice, Leebron oversaw substantial growth both in research and with the student body — and he accomplished this while making Rice more affordable and accessible to Texans and others from all walks of life.

While Leebron raised Rice’s national and international profile, he also focused on its relationship with Houston and worked closely with the Houston mayor and others to build a more impactful relationship with the city.

“One of things I really enjoyed during my time as president of Rice was the opportunity to engage with the city of Houston, to explore how, as part of our mission, we could benefit our community and the surrounding metropolitan area,” he said.

“This was reflected, for example, in the establishment of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the creation of the Ion and the Ion District to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. I was so inspired by the faculty at Rice who, through their research, were improving the lives of others, whether in our Houston community or around the globe. Texas 2036 is the ideal institution to engage on a statewide basis to improve the lives of all Texans and make the state the premier destination for businesses that will foster the prosperity of our people.”

Leebron will complete the spring semester at Rice and begin work as president-designate with the Texas 2036 board, senior management and staff to define the organization’s strategic direction, meet with policymakers and stakeholders from across the state and seek opportunities to expand partnerships with research-affiliated institutions before formally assuming the role of president and CEO this summer.

During his presidency with Texas 2036, he will remain on Rice’s faculty and continue teaching one course at Rice in the fall.

“It will be mutually beneficial for me to continue to be located at Rice,” Leebron said. “One thing that particularly excites me is that we will be able to explore ways of engaging students in the work of Texas 2036 — not just for the benefit of Rice students but also to develop programs that can be used to engage students at a number of the great universities located all across the state of Texas.”

Leebron graduated from Harvard Law School where he was president of the Harvard Law Review and appointed his classmate Chief Justice John Roberts as managing editor. He taught at the UCLA School of Law, New York University School of Law and Columbia School of Law where he became dean in 1996. In 2004 he was appointed president of Rice, where he focused on growing the size and diversity of the student body and the scope of the education and research mission. He is married to Y. Ping Sun, an attorney and community leader who prominently served the university and its students for nearly two decades. They have two children.

To learn more about Texas 2036, visit