For this generation of Tech students, Wayne Clough is the only Institute president they have ever known. That will soon change, as Clough announced in an e-mail to students Saturday, March 15, that he is stepping down from his position as of July 1 to become the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, the top administrative position at the renowned educational and research facility.
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) will be in charge of selecting Clough’s replacement and appointing an interim president. No candidates have yet been publicly announced, nor has a date been set for selecting an interim president.
An e-mail to students from USG chancellor Erroll Davis gave a general timetable for such processes as consisting of search preparation in the spring and formal solicitations for applications in the fall.
“We will work with the Tech campus to set in motion the search process that will identify a worthy successor to Dr. Clough and someone who is ready to lead Tech in ways that continue to build its national and international reputation,” Davis said in a statement on the Board of Regents’ web site.
The figures show that Clough’s tenure has been filled with accomplishments. Since he took over in Sept. 1994, enrollment is up from 13,000 to 18,000; research expenditures have increased from $212 million to $473 million; the Institute has embarked on two capital campaigns raising $1.6 billion and is currently in the middle of a $1 billion campaign; Tech has climbed up the rankings, opened up new campuses around the world, and added 25 new majors (23 of which are non-engineering or interdisciplinary). He has received honors such as being named to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology as well as the National Science Board.
“During the presidency of Wayne Clough, Georgia Tech has made tremendous advances in [furthering] its reputation as an undergraduate institution providing education in engineering, the sciences, and many other disciplines, and has become recognized as one of the leading research institutions in the U.S. It’s through President Clough’s leadership that those changes have been made,” said Provost Gary Schuster.
“Personally, I doubt there is anyone on the Georgia Tech campus that will miss him more than I will. Over the last year and a half (since Schuster was named provost) we’ve worked together on essentially a day-to-day basis, and I’ve come to admire his wisdom, thoughtfulness, and ability to get things done,” Schuster said.
Clough said that because he was “close to retirement at Georgia Tech,” the invitation to lead the Smithsonian was well-timed.
“I’ve had a great run here and we’ve had a wonderful time, but you reach a point where it’s time for somebody else to do the job,” Clough said.
He said that he had not been planning to go anywhere else after retiring; however, when he was approached by a search firm who was looking to fill the opening for a permanent Secretary, he began to think his background would make him a good fit at the Smithsonian.
“I realized there were a lot of similarities between this institution, Georgia Tech, and that one, the Smithsonian. The budgets are about the same size. The Smithsonian has a great number of scientists working for them. The curators of the museum are much like faculty. They have a need for fund-raising, something I do here. They’re also a public institution which has to work with elected officials, and I do that here,” Clough said.
One unique appeal that Clough saw in leading the Smithsonian was the role it serves for the United States.
“I have always had a strong passionate feeling about the Smithsonian because it’s a great national asset.For our country, and all of its citizens, it’s a chance to see our history and think about our future….If I can contribute and help them, then I’m helping our country, and I thought that was a nice thing to do in the twilight of my active career,” Clough said.
In taking the job, Clough succeeds acting secretary Cristian Samper and the previous permanent secretary, Lawrence Small, who resigned in 2007 amid allegations of improper personal expenditures and criticism of his style of management.
Clough said he will face two major challenges: the first is overcoming a “deficit in maintenance” of the museum’s exhibits and of the Smithsonian’s buildings. The second is the need to re-establish the trust of Congress, which provides about two-thirds of the Smithsonian’s funding, after the problems of the previous administration.
“My feeling (after speaking to members of Congress) was that there is a great residual goodwill for the Smithsonian itself. [Congress was] not angry at the Smithsonian, they were angry at the way it was being managed, so we need to restore the trust, faith and hope in the administration and then bring along their natural goodwill for the Smithsonian itself,” Clough said.
Beyond that, he said there are exciting opportunities to use technology to bring the vast collections of the museum, many of which are unable to be placed in its current exhibits, to people who can’t make it to the museum by using the internet.
Having spent nearly 14 years as the president of his alma mater, Clough has plenty of things he’ll miss when he transitions to this new phase of his career.
“I’m certainly going to miss the students. They’re one in a million and I think a lot of my [proudest accomplishments] would relate to the improvements we’ve made in student life, and opportunities for our students,” Clough said.
“Dr. Clough is one of the best presidents, if not the best president, Georgia Tech has ever had,” said Anu Parvatiyar, student body president.
“He’s done a lot for students… the ways that he’s expanded not only the research capabilities and the facilities of Georgia Tech but also [improved] the student life experience. We take his record for granted since he’s been here for so long. Students love and respect Dr. Clough and we’re very sad to see him go,” Parvatiyar said.
The fact that the decision came at the beginning of Spring Break was not intentional, according to Clough. When the Smithsonian Institution feared that the names of the nominees for the position were going to be leaked out, and not wanting to carry out the process with the nominees made public, they made their decision ahead of schedule. They gave Clough the chance to make the announcement to campus before they would hear about it from somewhere else.