Chard serves as Wheelock College’s 14th president


David J. Chard

By Jane Keller Gordon

Boston – David J. Chard brings a wealth of academic, management and life experiences to his position as Wheelock College’s 14th president.

Kate Taylor, chair of the Wheelock College Board of Trustees said in a press release, “Dr. Chard stood out not only for his outstanding leadership… … but for innovative thinking, focus on diversity and inclusion, and lifelong commitment to education.”

Located in Boston and Brookline, Wheelock is a small university with a big reach. Originally founded to train kindergarten teachers, it offers a wide portfolio of undergraduate degrees for approximately 800 students who were enrolled in this academic year. Its 350+ graduate students pursue master’s degrees, certificates, and non-degree programs related to education, nonprofits and social work. The school has been recognized for community service and partnerships and its long running Wheelock Family Theatre. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees internationally in Singapore.

Chard is happy to be in Boston, where his partner Michael lives. Chard has three grown children, including two who are still in school.

“I’ve lived in Boston before, so I’m thrilled to be back. It’s good to be near the seashore,” he said.

In the short term at Wheelock, Chard is focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion. Recently, the school has established some gender-neutral restrooms. Like other schools, they have dropped the requirement for SAT or ACT scores from undergraduate applicants in the hope of attracting a broader student body.

Longer term, Chard said the school plans to grow their graduate program. He commented, “I think it’s important for the faculty at Wheelock to have a stronger voice in policy related to the needs of children and families, including making high quality early childhood care more accessible, advancing the expertise of individuals working in juvenile justice, and expanding the expertise and leadership of social workers.”

The son of factory workers, Chard grew up on a dairy farm in Eastern Michigan. He was among the first generation of his family to attend college. Chard earned his Ph.D. in special education from the University of Oregon.

After graduation, Chard joined the Peace Corps and taught in Lesotho, a small country in southern Africa.

“Sometimes the technology and the media that we use to teach becomes the thing that students focus on, instead of the underlying concepts, which is what’s important,” he said. “That experience in the Peace Corps helped me learn to teach and assess the underlying principles that are more critical to the student’s future.”

Chard has taught high school mathematics in California, and been on the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin, Boston University, and associate dean at the University of Oregon’s College of Education.

For the past 10 years, he was the dean at Southern Methodist University’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. During his tenure there, Chard set records in fundraising, expanding faculty, research funding and infrastructure.

Chard is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Board for Education Sciences (NBES).

His academic focus is the education of students with learning disabilities. He is a member of the International Academy for Research on Learning Disabilities, and a board member of the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

“Wheelock takes a particular interest and expertise in supporting our students with learning and attention difficulties so they can become teachers and social workers to help others fulfill their full potential,” he said.

About the future and Donald Trump’s presidency, Chard said, “The change in administration … raises a lot of questions about what will be the [administration’s] focus on education, and what will be the role of research in its priorities. The last two administrations have been very clear that research and development are critical to improving educational outcomes in the U.S. We hope that [this] administration will hold these same values.”

For more information about Wheelock College, visit