- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents is expected to elect former Microsoft executive Patty Stonesifer as chairwoman of the board overseeing the world’s largest museum and research complex.

Miss Stonesifer recently stepped down as the chief executive officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest charitable foundation, and has served on the Smithsonian board since 2001. She will replace D.C. businessman Roger Sant in January to lead the 17-member board.

“The Smithsonian provides unrivaled access to knowledge and culture to anyone who seeks it,” Miss Stonesifer said in a statement. “We are at a moment in history where research and innovation have made it easier to preserve and celebrate culture and bring the world closer together.”

Miss Stonesifer, who has homes in the District and Seattle, told the Associated Press in 2006 that she couldn’t imagine a better opportunity than leading the Gates Foundation, which puts most of its money into global health, development and U.S. education. In the past decade, the foundation has given away more than $16 billion.

She has said her accomplishments from the business world couldn’t compare to the way she feels about saving people’s lives.

“I hope to die with my employee badge in my purse,” she said at the time. She stepped down as CEO of the foundation earlier this month but will stay on as a consultant.

The Smithsonian recently installed its 12th secretary, G. Wayne Clough, who has said he wants the museums to digitize their collections for use on the Internet and dramatically expand their outreach to schools across the country.

Mr. Clough will lead the Smithsonian’s first major capital campaign - to raise more than $1 billion in five to seven years.

Miss Stonesifer will lead the board - which includes six members of Congress, the vice president and the Supreme Court chief justice - in supporting the fundraising effort and improving its governance, after the last Smithsonian secretary, Lawrence M. Small, resigned amid questions of his compensation and spending.

The board chairman position was created during a series of reforms after the regents were faulted for lax oversight of Mr. Small. Miss Stonesifer led the board’s governance committee, guiding the reform effort, and has served unofficially as vice chairwoman of the board since January, said Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas.

Mr. Sant, the outgoing chairman, announced a $15 million gift in June to support the new Ocean Hall, opening Saturday at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

cAP writer Donna Gordon Blankinship in Seattle contributed to this report.

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