Alex Darragh, Northwestern University’s vice president for Facilities, will retire on Aug. 31, 2023, Executive Vice President Craig Johnson announced today.
During his time at Northwestern, Darragh led Facilities through a transition that followed a period of rapid capital expansion and helped establish a governance process for developing and approving future capital projects. The University will begin the search for his successor immediately, Johnson said.
As vice president for Facilities at Northwestern, Darragh leads a staff of approximately 350 people, has guided investments in energy and sustainability planning, and closed on a broad range of capital projects, including the Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center, the new Welsh-Ryan Arena, Trienens Performance Center, and Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletic Center.
“Alex’s service-centered vision for Facilities, as well as his wisdom and deep experience, has been critical for Northwestern’s successful navigation of the last several years of change,” said Johnson. “He has elevated Facilities’ operational excellence to better serve our entire campus community every day, no matter the circumstance.
“Alex’s forward-looking leadership on sustainability and infrastructure capital has laid crucial groundwork for our future aspirations.”
Darragh led a number of Facilities initiatives to invest in foundational infrastructure on the Chicago and Evanston campuses and support the University’s sustainability goals. He established a formal multi-year program to address deferred maintenance across buildings with emphasis on safety and regulatory compliance.
“It has been an honor to work with a highly talented team that is dedicated to supporting the University’s strategic mission by providing students, faculty and staff with a safe, reliable and sustainable campus environment,” Darragh said.
Darragh led Northwestern’s procurement of the off-site renewable energy contract with Community Solar and the University’s five-year partnership with Ameresco to address energy efficiency and deferred maintenance needs — a key initiative to support SustainNU’s reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
During Darragh’s leadership, Northwestern received the prestigious ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence Award three years in a row and was the first university to win the accolade.
“Alex brought to Northwestern his seasoned experience from advising some of America’s largest corporations about their facilities. There’s little that he hasn’t seen,” said H. Patrick Hackett, Jr. WCAS ’75, KSM ’82, chair of the Board of Trustees Educational Properties Committee, which has oversight over Northwestern’s major capital projects and ongoing maintenance. “Alex empowered colleagues to develop confident plans and to deploy capital wisely, and he did so with characteristic courtesy, calm and a systematic approach to facilities.
“He has been a stalwart steward overseeing the important facilities portfolio for Northwestern. We all benefitted enormously from his career here, and Alex has our deepest respect and gratitude for his service.”
Darragh, who earned a master’s degree in urban policy planning from Northwestern in 1980, served as interim vice president for Facilities beginning September 2018 and became vice president in July 2019.
Before coming to Northwestern, Darragh had four decades of experience in corporate real estate, strategic planning, organizational development and analysis of real estate finance and investment.
In addition to his Northwestern degree, Darragh has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
He lives in Evanston with his spouse, Linda, who has recently retired from the Kellogg School of Management. The couple has three adult children, two of whom are graduates of Northwestern.