Merrill Lessley joined the University of Colorado in 1988 as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and resident Dean of the Graduate School (1988-93) at the Colorado Springs campus. In 1993, he served as the Interim Chancellor of the UCCS campus.  Previous to 1988, he served as Dean of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts (1983-88) at San Diego State University, and also as Chairperson for the Department of Theatre (1982-83).  He received a BFA from the University of Utah (1964), an MA from the University of Minnesota (1966), and a Ph.D. from the University of Utah (1969). He is a graduate of the Harvard Management Development Program, (1986), and the Harvard Institute for Educational Management (1986).

He joined the Theatre Department faculty at CU Boulder in 1994.  Between 1994 and 1996, he served twice as Interim Chairperson for that department. He also served for one year as Interim Chair of the Department of Fine Arts. From 1997 to 2002, her served as Associate Dean for the Arts and Humanities at CU Boulder. In 2009, he served as the interim director of the University of Colorado at Boulder Honors Program.

Teaching, Research, and Creative Work

His teaching assignments have included courses in the history and development of American theatre and a senior capstone seminar that examines issues of creative process. He has published numerous articles on stage lighting and special effects. He is co-author, along with Hunton D. Sellman, of the book Essentials of Stage Lighting. At the University of Colorado Boulder, he has designed the lighting for Fences, Equus, and Crimes of the Heart, Cherry Orchard, and Two Rooms. He has an extensive list of stage lighting design credits. His current area of research involves the creation of computer controlled laser lighting effects.  He has completed a number of international presentations regarding this research.  Examples of this research can be seen at

Professional Memberships

Phi Kappa Phi Honorary Scholastic Society