Smithsonian gets a new chief

McClatchy Washington BureauMarch 10, 2014 

— The Smithsonian Institution today named Cornell University president David Skorton secretary of the “nation’s attic,” only the 13th person to lead the system’s 19 museums and National Zoo since it was founded in 1846.. Skorton will start July 1, 2015.

“Becoming a part of the Smithsonian is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead an institution that is at the heart of the country’s cultural, artistic, historical and scientific life,” said Skorton at a midday press conference in the Smithsonian castle. “I am honored by the Board of Regents’ decision. I look forward with great enthusiasm to partnering with the excellent staff and volunteers, and engaging with the Regents, Congress and the Smithsonian’s many friends, supporters and affiliates to further extend our reach. I am eager to work with the leaders of Washington’s art, science and cultural centers to emphasize the critical importance of these disciplines.”

One of Skorton’s strengths is as a fundraiser - he raised more than $5 billion for Cornell since arriving in July 2006. Prior to that, he was president of the University of Iowa.

“As a successful president of two universities, David has led complex organizations,” said John McCarter, chairman of the Board of Regents who led the search committee.“He is an accomplished research scientist and a strong advocate for the arts and humanities, which make him an extraordinary fit for the Smithsonian. I am confident David is the right leader for our future, as we stress continuity and aspire to further expand the Smithsonian’s presence nationally, internationally and in Washington, D.C.”

Skorton, who is a physician, said he planned to keep his medical license but would spend the next year preparing to take on the new job.

Current secretary Wayne Clough will retire at the end of 2014, to be followed by an interim secretary.

Email: mrecio@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @maria_e_recio.

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