G. Wayne Clough
G. Wayne Clough is the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. (Richard A. Bloom)The secretary of the Smithsonian looks back on six years of change — and controversy — at the institution.
Statistics tend to come up often in a conversation with Wayne Clough as he prepares to end his tenure as secretary of the Smithsonian Institution: 138 million objects in the collection, including 126 million scientific specimens; more than 700 buildings with 12 million square feet of floor space; 6,400 employees and 6,300 volunteers; 650,000 baseball cards; 300,000 bank notes; and — for good measure — 66,000 bumblebees.
Then there’s the biggest number of all: $1.5 billion. That was the goal set for a fundraising campaign that began four years ago and will end in 2017, the largest ever for a cultural organization. The Smithsonian has already raised $1 billion of it during Clough’s tenure. “I’ve told my successor he has an easy job — he only has to raise another third,” Clough says during an interview in an ornate conference room in the famous Smithsonian Castle.
Clough has guided the Smithsonian through some profound changes since becoming its 12th secretary in July 2008 — beyond the well-publicized renovations of iconic buildings such as the National Museum of Natural History and the addition of the new museum dedicated to African-American history and culture. Perhaps most significantly, he launched a massive digitization project soon after he took over that will eventually make images and descriptions of every item in the Smithsonian’s vast collections available to the public worldwide.
“Right now, you see what the curators want you to see in an exhibition. They even tell you what to think about it, in the label,” Clough says. “But if you can look at the collections yourself, you can make your own mind up. Public access, for me, is a huge, important tool, because I grew up not knowing about the Smithsonian. And my parents were paying for it, and they weren’t getting their money’s worth.”
Clough, 73, was born in Douglas, Georgia — “a place so small and so far south Sherman didn’t even burn it,” he says — in “an enlightened family” that “despised the politics of the South.” His father was a self-taught engineer who developed his own ice and coal business, and Clough inherited “a builder gene” that led him to Georgia Tech and the University of California (Berkeley) to earn degrees in engineering. “I love big projects — subways, big water projects,” he says. “In time, I transferred that to institutions, because you can build an institution just like you can build a big infrastructure project.”
He had a long career in academia — faculty positions at Duke, Stanford, and Virginia Tech; provost at the University of Washington; and 14 years as president of Georgia Tech — before the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents elected him secretary. Almost immediately, Clough pushed the institution toward a higher profile and greater interaction with the public on topics ranging from climate change to gay rights.
His efforts were not without controversy. During a 2010 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery that focused on depictions of sexual differences, Clough removed a short excerpt from a 1987 video, A Fire in My Belly, that showed ants crawling on a crucifix. Religious groups and conservative lawmakers had demanded that the entire exhibition be closed; Clough removed 11 seconds from the 30-minute video, but was still criticized for injecting politics into artistic judgments.
“Looking back on it, it was absolutely the right decision,” Clough says. “We’ve done controversial exhibits since then, but we’ve gotten better at it. You’ve got to do these things smartly. If you’re going to do a controversial exhibition, there’s no sense in sticking a stick in somebody’s eye. Do it right; do it professionally.”
Clough and his wife plan to return to their home in Atlanta when he steps down at the end of the year, but he will continue in an advisory role with the institution, and he’ll work on two books, including one about the Smithsonian’s connections to his roots in rural Georgia.
Smithsonian executive Albert Horvath will take over as acting secretary on Jan. 1. Incoming Secretary David Skorton, now president of Cornell University, arrives next summer.
At first glance, it might seem odd for the Telecommunications Industry Association, which represents most of the major manufacturers and suppliers in the high-tech arena, to look to a transportation trade group for its new chief executive. But Scott Belcher says there’s logic to his move to the TIA. In his former post as president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, “we worked on creating a new ecosystem around transportation, and it’s happening because of communications and data,” he says. Advances in telecommunications are transforming other industries as well, Belcher says. A Californian who was raised by a Croatian single mom, Belcher, 54, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands, a master’s at Georgetown, and a law degree at the University of Virginia. His career has included positions at the Environmental Protection Agency, law firm Beveridge & Diamond, the House Appropriations Committee, the National Multifamily Housing Council, Airlines for America, and the National Academy of Public Administration.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated Belcher’s age.
Nichole Francis Reynolds
MasterCard has a new director of federal government relations, and Nichole Francis Reynolds brings more than a decade of experience in political and legislative work to the post. The 39-year-old from Lorain, Ohio, started working for Democrats as an intern for then-Rep. Sherrod Brown, then earned a law degree at Ohio State University and joined Baker Hostetler in Washington. While at the law firm, she met then-Rep. Harold Ford Jr. and joined his district office in Memphis, Tennessee. Reynolds became deputy campaign manager when Ford ran for the Senate in 2006, then moved back to Capitol Hill, first as counsel to the House Homeland Security Committee and later as chief of staff to then-Rep. Betty Sutton of Ohio, and to Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama. “I worked for pro-business and progressive members,” Reynolds says, a résumé that prompted a recruiting firm for MasterCard to contact her this summer. She started at the company’s Washington office in September.
D. Rachael Bishop
As a student in Monterey, California, D. Rachael Bishop became hooked on science when she studied the effects of laundry detergents on algae growth in a neighborhood pond. Later, at the University of California (Davis), she says, “I took every science and science-policy course available.” After earning a master’s degree in writing at Hamline University in Minnesota, she started a career in communications and public affairs. Along the way, she worked at the American Chestnut Foundation; for several programs at the University of Virginia; and most recently as manager of public policy communications at the American Chemical Society. Last month, Bishop, 54, became director of communications and public affairs at the American Anthropological Association, which represents some 9,000 anthropologists in academia, business, and government. “Science has so much richness and connects us with each other,” she says.