- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2008

G. Wayne Clough, 66, president of the Georgia Institute of Technology, will become the 12th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution on July 1.

The decision comes nearly a year after the last secretary, Lawrence M. Small, resigned under pressure following revelations about $2 million in personal and travel expenditures.

Mr. Clough was selected by the Smithsonian’s board of regents over Acting Secretary Cristian Samper, who was also a finalist for the position. The board unanimously elected the Georgia-born civil engineer during a meeting Friday evening at the Supreme Court, presided over by the Smithsonian’s chancellor, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

“The Smithsonian is a great potential integrator of knowledge and it combines for me my love of the sciences and technology, and admiration for the arts and history,” said the bearded Mr. Clough during a press conference at the Smithsonian’s “castle” yesterday. “We want to find ways we can cross disciplines … to make the sum of the parts greater than they would otherwise be.”

The new secretary said he learned he had been picked for the job on a train headed for New York “in the middle of a Girl Scout troop.”

In contrast to Mr. Small, who was not a scientist or a scholar, Mr. Clough is a civil engineer with strong academic credentials.

Mr. Small was sharply criticized by Congress for his lavish lifestyle and ballooning compensation, which in 2007 totaled $915,698 for his salary plus a housing allowance. He also drew fire for his corporate methods, such as pushing to rename facilities after wealthy donors and signing a contract with Showtime Networks Inc. to create a TV unit and limit access to Smithsonian resources.

At the press conference, Roger Sant, chairman of the Smithsonian board, stressed Mr. Clough’s academic credentials.

“He took [Georgia Tech] from a very good regional engineering school to a great international university,” Mr. Sant said.

The new secretary, he noted, will be paid a salary of $490,000 with no additional housing allowance. “He gets exactly the same benefits as every other Smithsonian employee.”

As president of Georgia Tech since 1994, Mr. Clough increased enrollment from 13,000 students to more than 18,000, and annual research expenditures from $212 million to $425 million. He led two fundraising campaigns that resulted in nearly $1.5 billion in private gifts and expanded the Atlanta-based institution with satellite campuses in France, Ireland, Singapore and Shanghai.

The difference between Georgia Tech and the world’s largest museum complex, Mr. Clough joked, is that “the Smithsonian as yet doesn’t have a football or basketball team.”

A graduate of Georgia Tech, Mr. Clough received his doctorate in civil engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He serves on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and the National Science Board and has written extensively on higher education policy, innovation and technology. Before joining Georgia Tech, Mr. Clough was provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of Washington.

Regent Alan Spoon, chairman of the 10-member search committee, related how Mr. Clough met all the criteria set by the Smithsonian for a new secretary, including the ability to restore public trust.

“Wayne has more than once navigated rough waters,” Mr. Spoon said. “He has presided over an organization with a financial complexity that rivals the Smithsonian.”

In addition to reviewing job candidates’ resumes, he said, the committee conducted “deep personal interviews” and cited Mr. Clough’s “unblemished integrity.”

In his job as acting secretary over the past year, Mr. Samper oversaw revisions in the Smithsonians governance policies that were made in response to Mr. Smalls excesses. They include prohibiting service on corporate boards and the use of trust funds to purchase employee gifts, making leave policy for senior staff the same as for other federal agencies, and better monitoring travel and entertainment expenditures.

Despite its troubles, the Smithsonians current federal appropriation is approximately $682 million, up from about $635 million in 2007.

Mr. Samper, who attended the press conference, will return to the Museum of Natural History as director, a position he held from 2003 to 2007.

“I look forward to working with him,” the Costa Rica-born biologist said of Mr. Clough. “He is a good guy.”

As the new secretary, Mr. Clough will have to grapple with problems throughout the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, National Zoological Park and research facilities, ranging from deferred building maintenance to weak art collections. Above all, he will have to repair the Smithsonians tarnished public image.

“I know the Smithsonian has some challenges,” he said. “The problems we have today are all resolvable. Some of them will be resolved faster than others, but none of them are insurmountable.”

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