Lehigh University on Friday named a University of Virginia executive as its 14th president.

John D. Simon, 57, the executive vice president and provost at University of Virginia since 2011, will begin at Lehigh on July 1, Lehigh's board of trustees announced.

Simon, a chemist who specializes in the study of human pigmentation, will replace Alice P. Gast, who left Lehigh to become president of Imperial College London.

"Having had the opportunity to visit Lehigh's campus and learn more about its remarkable history and unique strengths during the search process, I have begun to understand what a truly special place this is," Simon said in a press statement.

Simon previously served as vice provost of academic affairs at Duke University and before that had headed its department of chemistry. He started his academic career at the University of California-San Diego in 1985.

He has a bachelor's in chemistry from Williams College and his doctorate from Harvard.

His wife, Diane Szaflarski, an associate professor in Virginia's School of Nursing, will become a professor at Lehigh, the university said. The couple has two sons.