- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2001

Federal law dating to the Smithsonian's 1846 founding sets up the board of regents as a 17-member body consisting of the chief justice of the United States, the vice president, six members of Congress (three from each house) and nine citizen regents. The citizen members are nominated by the Board of Regents and confirmed by a joint resolution of Congress, which then is signed by the president of the United States.
The three House members are appointed by the House speaker, while the president pro tem of the Senate appoints the three senators. Senators and representatives serve for the length of their terms in Congress, while citizen regents serve six-year terms. All regents are eligible for reappointment.
The regents are not given a salary for their service, but they are reimbursed for travel to meetings. For fiscal 2000 that came to $10,466.60.
Here is a list of the current regents:
m William H. Rehnquist has served since becoming chief justice in September 1986. He is also chancellor of the Smithsonian, a position traditionally held by the chief justice, as well as one of three members of the board's executive committee. He is in charge of regent meetings.
m Vice President Richard B. Cheney became a regent upon his inauguration. Mary Combs, a Smithsonian public affairs officer, says the vice president attends meetings "at his discretion" and has missed both meetings held during his term. The vice president can send a representative in his place, says Executive Committee Chairman Wesley S. Williams Jr.
Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican, joined the board in January 1995.
Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, joined the board in February 1997.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, joined the board in January 2001.
Rep. Sam Johnson, Texas Republican, joined the board in January 1995.
Rep. Robert T. Matsui, California Democrat, joined the board in June 1999.
Rep. Ralph Regula, Ohio Republican, joined the board in January 1999.
Barber B. Conable Jr., a former U.S. representative and former president of the World Bank Group, joined the board in April 1993.
Hanna H. Gray, former president of the University of Chicago and a history professor at the university, joined the board in April 1993.
Anne d'Harnoncourt, director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, joined the board in December 1995.
Manuel L. Ibanez, a biochemist and professor at Texas A&M; University in Kingsville, joined the board in May 1994.
Walter E. Massey, president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, joined the board in May 1994.
Homer A. Neal, professor of high-energy physics at the University of Michigan, joined the board in December 1989.
Alan G. Spoon, former president of the Washington Post Co. and now a general partner in Polaris Venture Partners in Boston, joined the board in May 2000. He recently became a member of the executive committee, says Smithsonian public affairs officer Linda St. Thomas.
Wesley S. Williams Jr., a partner in the law firm of Covington & Burling in the District, joined the board in April 1993. He is chairman of the executive committee.
The resignation of Howard H. Baker Jr. to be the ambassador to Japan has left the board with one vacancy. Roger W. Sant, board chairman of Arlington-based AES Corp., the largest independent electricity generator in the nation, has been nominated to fill the seat, but Congress must approve his appointment. He has been active in the World Wildlife Fund.
The three-member executive committee sets the agenda in consultation with the secretary for the board's regular meetings.
Executive Committee Chairman Mr. Williams says, "The agenda, in the first instance, is prepared by management, and of course, there's an elaborate process there that very much would simulate what would go on in any corporation." From there, the executive committee reviews it and in a formal meeting decides how the agenda items will be presented.
"I think inevitably, from a substantive standpoint, a lot of the report of what's going on in the institution from day to day is coming from the secretariat. On the other hand, as far as larger policy issues are concerned, that's a mix. … I can tell you that we have a good, healthy dialogue on that subject and frequently raise policy issues with the secretary that are factored into the agenda," he says.
The board of regents meets three times a year, always on a Monday, Mr. Williams says. In recent years, the board also has convened the Sunday before the meeting as a "committee of the whole" to discuss Smithsonian business. Between board meetings, regents may also be involved with committee meetings or more informal discussions, Mr. Williams says. — Tom Ellington


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