Gary Dirks, director of Arizona State University’s LightWorks and former president of BP China, appointed director of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability

Gary Dirks

TEMPE, Ariz. – March 14, 2013 – Gary Dirks, director of Arizona State University’s LightWorks Initiative and former president of BP China and BP Pacific-Asia, has been appointed director of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS), with the goal of expanding the global impact of ASU.

“GIOS’s charter is to advance research, education, business practices and global partnerships that aid in the transformation of today’s world into a more sustainable endeavor,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “With the appointment of Gary Dirks as director of GIOS, we look to increase the global impact of our work and surge ahead as a leader in sustainability.”

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.”

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.”


About the Global Institute of Sustainability:
The Global Institute of Sustainability is the hub of ASU’s sustainability initiatives. The Institute advances research, education, and business practices for an urbanizing world. Its School of Sustainability, the first comprehensive program of its kind in the U.S., offers transdisciplinary degree programs to create practical solutions for environmental, economic, and social challenges.

GIOS has been responsible for:

  • Establishing the first comprehensive School of Sustainability (SoS) in the U.S. and is the largest educator of future leaders of sustainability with approximately 500 undergraduates and 100 graduate students.
  • Creating leading-edge sustainable operations at ASU’s four campuses including more than 18MW of solar power generating capacity, a strategic plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2025 and 36 LEED certified buildings.
  • A unique network of 265 Sustainability Scientists and Scholars comprised of faculty from nearly every academic discipline, engaged in more than $78 million in externally-funded research on sustainability.
  • Establishing the first ASU Global Sustainability Solutions Center in the Municipality of Haarlemmermeer, in The Netherlands; an innovative collaboration to solve the challenges of sustainability and share best practices.
  • Earning major awards and recognition for ASU’s work in sustainability from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Princeton Review and the National Wildlife Federation, among others.
  • Building a Board of Directors for Sustainability at ASU of internationally renowned thought leaders in sustainability including its co-chairs Julie Wrigley and Rob Walton, Chairman of Walmart, CEOs of multinational corporations such as Dial/Henkel and Burger King, senior executives of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Environmental Defense Fund and academics from Harvard and Stanford universities.
  • For more information visit the Global Institute of Sustainability at

About ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development:
The Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development advances faculty and student research, economic development, and entrepreneurship at ASU, in Arizona, and beyond. The knowledge enterprise is a new model for a 21st century research university with a unique portfolio of interdisciplinary institutes and initiatives, corporate engagement programs, and support for the creation of new businesses. For more information visit To learn more about LightWorks, visit

Media contacts:

Amelia Huggins, (480) 965-1754, Am[email protected]
ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

Tara Mogan, (480) 727-9447, [email protected]
ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability