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Dirks was chosen for this role to help GIOS solve global sustainability challenges. Dirks is a distinguished sustainability scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Chair of Sustainable Practices, and teaching faculty member in the School of Sustainability at ASU.
"Gary possesses exactly the combination of skills, experience and intellectual curiosity to lead the Institute,” said Julie Ann Wrigley, co-chair of the GIOS Board of Directors. “As a former global business executive, member of the GIOS Board of Directors and leader of ASU LightWorks Initiative, a better leader could not have been chosen at this point in the development of the Institute.”
While in China, Dirks grew the BP operation from 30 employees and no revenue in 1995 to more than 1,300 employees and revenues of about $4 billion in 2008.
“Gary has demonstrated his ability to set a grand vision, align projects and people around that vision to create solutions to grand challenges that impact our society,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president for ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “He does all of this in a rapid time frame that is consistent with the spirit of the New American University.”
As director, Gary will chair the GIOS 3-person Directorate. The Directorate oversees the Insititute’s complex, pan-university mission and consists of the director, an executive dean and the dean of the School of Sustainability.
Dirks received his doctorate in chemistry from ASU in 1980, and after working in the energy industry, returned to ASU to lead the LightWorks in 2009. The LightWorks Initiative is ASU’s multidisciplinary research effort to harness the energy of sunlight and apply it across a broad spectrum of technology related challenges. Dirks will continue to lead the initiative as part of his new role at GIOS.
Dirks previously served as chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce in Beijing and as the only foreign member of the British Prime Minister’s China Task Force. He was a founding director of the China Business Council for Sustainable Development, past chairman of the China U.S. Center for Sustainable Development and served as a board member of the India Council for Sustainable Development.
In 2003 Dirks received China’s “Friendship Award,” the highest recognition granted to foreign citizens, and was appointed Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George from the UK in 2005. In December 2008, he was recognized by the People’s Daily as one of the 10 most influential multinational company leaders of the last 30 years of China’s economic development.
“GIOS is an extraordinary place with people who understand sustainability at a very deep level and who know how to apply sustainability concepts to solve real-world problems,” said Dirks. “The challenge for me will be building on a very strong foundation to extend the reach and impact of the Institute.”