Welch named permanent vice president for IT and chief information officer at Penn State University

Donald J. Welch, who has served as Penn State’s interim vice president for Information Technology and chief information officer since July 2019, was recently appointed to the position on a permanent basis, effective Oct. 1, following a national search.  

Welch joined Penn State in December 2016 as chief information security officer, leading the Office of Information Security and providing strategic guidance and technical leadership for the University’s comprehensive information security and IT risk-management programs. Since being named interim vice president, Welch has led the creation and execution of Penn State’s IT modernization plan that is designed to increase efficiencies throughout IT and reduce costs, while helping to support the University’s strategic plan and One Penn State 2025 initiative.  

“We are pleased to permanently appoint Don to this critical role at Penn State,” said Nick Jones, executive vice president and provost. “Don is well versed in the University’s technology infrastructure and informational systems, and his efforts have helped us continue the transformation of our IT operations to meet rapidly evolving needs. His expertise and leadership will drive decision making vital to Penn State’s success and growth.” 

As vice president, Welch will continue to provide strategic and operational leadership for all of Penn State’s information technology services and needs. This includes overseeing the implementation of IT tools for students, faculty and staff; establishing robust, secure and state-of-the-art computational, analytical and data services; identifying opportunities for cost-effective IT investments across the institution; preparing the University to be responsive to new and emerging technologies; developing IT governance practices and procedures; and partnering effectively with the University’s distributed IT providers. 

A member of the President’s Council, Welch will report to both Jones and David Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business. In addition to his duties as vice president, Welch is an affiliate professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State. 

“The position of vice president for Information Technology and CIO is a key strategic leadership role for Penn State,” said Gray. “Much more than merely overseeing the central IT organization, we look to Don to provide vision and guidance across all of Penn State’s organizational units and locations. We are confident that he is the right person to provide such comprehensive leadership.” 

“It has been a privilege to lead this great group of people through all the challenges of the last year,” Welch said. “Throughout my career I’ve found that being part of a great team that works together toward a noble goal is one of life’s best experiences. There is much we’ve done and will have to do to support teaching, research and service during COVID-19. We also have to advance Penn State’s strategic vision, especially One Penn State 2025. It is an honor to be chosen to lead IT at Penn State through the challenges and opportunities we face ahead.” 

Prior to joining Penn State, Welch served as chief information security officer at the University of Michigan, where he was responsible for information security, identity and access management, privacy disaster recovery, and IT policy across all campuses and the health system. He also served as president and CEO of Merit Network in Michigan, which provides research, networking and IT services to member educational institutions, and he was chief technology officer and director of merchandizing applications at H-E-B Grocery Co., where he oversaw enterprise architecture, infrastructure engineering, information security and merchandizing applications for a 600-person IT department. 

Before embarking on his civilian career, Welch served for 25 years in the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of colonel. His final position in the Army was chief information officer and professor of computer science at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Among his notable military assignments, Welch served as the senior human resources manager for the Army’s uniformed information technology workforce and led software development for Delta Force, the Army’s counterterrorism unit. Upon his retirement from the Army, Welch was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service in 2004. 

Among his other honors, Welch was named a White House Champion of Change in 2012; he was recognized by Corp! Magazine as Michigan’s top CEO in 2010; and he was named tech leader and innovator of the year for Michigan by Grant Thornton in 2010. 

Welch received a bachelor of science degree at the United States Military Academy, West Point; a master of science in computer science from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; and a doctorate in computer science from the University of Maryland, College Park.