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Jack Gibbons Retires, Neal Lane to OSTP, Rita Colwell to NSF

FEB 13, 1998

Three prominent scientists are changing their positions here in Washington. Today, Dr. John Gibbons, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, announced his retirement. President Clinton announced his intention to nominate NSF Director Dr. Neal Lane as Gibbons’ replacement. Replacing Lane, the President said, will be Dr. Rita Colwell, currently the President of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute. Gibbons tendered his resignation to President Clinton in a letter released this afternoon. Gibbons wrote: “It has been an extraordinary honor and privilege to be your science advisor for over five years. I am grateful for the remarkable opportunity to cap my four decades of public service by serving you and our country. While I remain committed-to your success, I believe that now is an appropriate time to submit my resignation, to be effective March 15, 1998. I look forward to continuing my efforts to build bridges between people, disciplines, and institutions.” His letter continues, “I take my leave with a sense of deep humility and immense pride -humility in being associated with great American scientists who have gone before me, pride in this nation’s unmatched scientific establishment. The tools of science and technology have provided greater strength, greater resources, and a greater quality of life for all Americans. In private life, I will work as hard as I have in the White House to keep us on the path to scientific preeminence, as well as to ensure that science and technology nurture the values and ideals that gave us birth as a Nation.” President Clinton accepted the resignation with regret during a speech today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Clinton thanked Gibbons for his years of service in Washington. Before coming to the White House, Gibbons was the Director of the congressional Office of Technology Assessment. Commenting on his resignation, Rep. George Brown, Jr. (D-CA) said, “I don’t think any science advisor ever served in more trying times for science than did Dr. Gibbons. Crowded by efforts to shrink the deficit, shouted at by ideologically driven voices of irrationality, and sometimes prodded by friends who thought he should do more, Jack’s term was not all sweetness and light. But Jack spoke forcefully for reasoned policy and legislation, and he will be remembered as a principled advocate for science in a time when irrational forces might have capsized the enterprise. Jack also worked persistently within the White House to defend science budgets from the competing claims of other worthy needs. The result of those efforts is the superb set of proposals to support science and technology in the President’s 1999 budget. In short, Jack is leaving at the top of his game and reaping the applause he so richly deserves for a job well done. We are very old friends and I believe that Washington will be a less interesting place without him.” Gibbons worked with the President and Vice President for more than a year to select his replacement, Neal Lane. Of Lane, Rep. Brown said, “Neal Lane has done a terrific job at NSF. Stepping into the post at OSTP will require that he shift his focus from what is best for the Nation’s academic research system to a broader conception of what is in the National interest in all aspects of science and technology. I am sure that he is up to the task and will be an able and talented advisor who will make his mark in White House inner circles.” Lane’s nomination will go to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, chaired by Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Dr. Rita Colwell, nominated as the new director of the National Science Foundation, has a Ph.D. in marine microbiology from the University of Washington. She has served on the National Science Board and has been the president of the American Society for Microbiology, the International Union of Microbiological Societies, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Brown said of Colwell: “Rita Colwell has a terrific track record at AAAS. Her experiences both in Washington and academia make her a great choice to head NSF. I look forward to working with both Dr. Colwell and Dr. Lane for many years to come.” The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Colwell’s nomination. Senator James M. Jeffords (R-VT) chairs this committee.

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