WASHINGTON – The Smithsonian Institution returned to its academic roots Saturday, naming the president of Georgia Tech as the new leader of the museum complex beleaguered by financial scandals.
G. Wayne Clough, an engineer by training, will become the 12th secretary of the world’s largest museum and research complex July 1, assuming control of an institution that has been in turmoil in the past year.
“I know the Smithsonian has challenges,” Clough said at a news conference. “We will surmount those challenges.”
Clough, 66, has served as Georgia Tech’s president since 1994 and has degrees in civil engineering. He is credited with transforming the Atlanta school into a top 10 public university, boosting research spending and raising nearly $1.5 billion. He previously held high-level posts at the University of Washington, where he served as provost and vice president, and Virginia Tech and taught at Stanford and Duke universities.
The Smithsonian, which includes the National Zoo and the National Air and Space Museum, has much in common with a university, Clough said. He noted it has a similar budget and staff size to that of Georgia Tech.
The first 10 secretaries to lead the institution had academic backgrounds, most of them in the sciences. The last, businessman Lawrence Small, resigned a year ago amid an investigation into his spending. Several top officials followed him out the door.
The institution also has been criticized for its executive compensation and its business practices. The Smithsonian’s business unit struck a controversial deal with Showtime Networks Inc. to form a joint TV venture.