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Monday, May 27, 2024 — Houston, TX

David Leebron joins Texas-focused policy center as incoming president and CEO

Mark Munyi / Thresher

By Keegan Leibrock     3/5/24 10:51pm

Former Rice president David Leebron has been named the incoming president and CEO of Texas 2036, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses data and research to address issues in Texas policy. 

Texas 2036 focuses on issues of Texas’ education and workforce, health, natural resources, infrastructure, government performances and various other areas with the mission of “[enabling] Texans to make policy decisions through accessible data, long-term planning and statewide engagement,” according to their mission statement.

Since ending his term as Rice’s president in 2022, Leebron has held various visiting professorships and has taught a few classes at Rice. Leebron said he looked into a number of different academic roles before choosing to pursue a position at Texas 2036.

“I looked at some of [the] other more academic roles and they were intriguing, but I was also interested in doing something new and different — something more closely connected with policy and political spheres in Texas,” Leebron said. “I have been heavily invested in issues that affect the city of Houston through my time at Rice, but this was an opportunity to directly engage with crucial policy issues that affect people throughout the state.”

Marc Watts, the chairman of Texas 2036’s Board of Directors, said he is excited to have Leebron joining the organization and advancing its mission.

“We are thrilled David has agreed to lead Texas 2036 into its next phase of growth,” Watts wrote in an email to the Thresher. “The Board and I look forward to him expanding his leadership and influence beyond Houston to help ensure a brighter, stronger future for all Texans. Having David as our CEO is great for Texas 2036, great for Rice and great for Texas.”

Leebron said he was attracted to the organization’s specific social policy aims, which motivated him to join Texas 2036.

“Texas 2036 is a pretty unique organization,” Leebron said. “Its goal is to focus on what Texas needs to achieve by the year 2036 to continue as a state that people want to live in, that supports the welfare of its people, that attracts businesses that create opportunities and that engages directly with the legislature and policymakers.”

Watts said that Leebron’s leadership would ensure that the remaining legislative sessions would be best utilized to maximize progress by 2036.

“Texas 2036 is committed to ensuring that Texas remains the best place to live and work through the state’s bicentennial in 2036 and beyond,” Watts wrote. “With just six regular sessions of the state legislature between now and 2036, David’s leadership [will] be transformative as the organization works to expand its impact … to ensure that Texas is on the right path ahead of its bicentennial.”

Leebron said he will continue to work as a professor at Rice, teaching one course in the fall.

“I’m very excited to be able to maintain an affiliation and presence at Rice,” Leebron said. “Being at Rice will give me an opportunity to have a wide variety of conversations and learn from a number of people, including those involved in public policy, education and health care. I hope to be able to learn and gain insights from them.” 

Watts said that he is confident in Leebron’s ability to leverage existing connections and create new partnerships to advance awareness and funding for the organization.

“David knows what it takes to enhance the work we are doing in support of our mission, to build effective partnerships and collaborations, and to translate academic research into meaningful results,” Watts wrote. “He demonstrated these abilities time and again during his leadership of Rice and I know Texas 2036, and by extension, Texas will benefit from them as well.”

In Texas’ diverse political landscape, Leebron said that he hopes Texas 2036 will serve as an example of making legislative and policy advancements, despite political obstacles.

“I hope to set an example for the state and the country about how data and research can be applied in a highly divisive and divided political environment to foster change,” Leebron said. “I am now meeting extraordinary people from all across the state, [some] whose politics are different [from] mine. We are going to engage in a dialogue about things we agree and disagree on, and I hope to find common ground.”

[March 6, 2024 10:10 a.m.] The chairman of Texas 2036’s board of directors is Marc Watts, not David Marc. This story has been corrected.

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