G. Wayne Clough

Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (since July 2008)

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Why He Matters

As the 12th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Clough is responsible for overseeing 18 museums, plus nine research centers and a zoo, that display many of America's most treasured artifacts for nearly 25 million visitors a year.

A former engineering professor with specialties in geotechnical issues, earthquakes and soil structure, Clough (pronouced Cluff) has spent much of his career in university administrations, holding positions at the University of Washington, Virginia Tech University and Georgia Tech University - his alma mater - before being selected for the Smithsonian's top job in March 2008.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: President, Georgia Institute of Technology (1994-2008); Provost, University of Washington (1993-1994); Dean, Virginia Tech University College of Engineering (1990-1993)
  • Birthday: Sept. 24, 1941
  • Hometown: Douglas, Ga.
  • Alma Mater: Georgia Institute of Technology, B.A., 1964, M.A., 1965 (civil engineering); University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D, 1969
  • Spouse: Anne Clough
  • Office: 1000 Jefferson Dr. SW, Washington, DC 20013
  • Web site

Path to Power

Clough was born in Douglas, Ga. in the rural southeast part of the state. He described his childhood as idyllic: "Many roads weren't paved. I didn't keep my shoes on past March. I played in the swamps and rivers and camped out. I always had a dog with me. And we always were building things, like bridges and houses, when we played." He cites those experiences building simple structures as the genesis of his interest in engineering.


After high school, Clough enrolled in Georgia Tech, four hours away in bustling Atlanta, where he decided to major in engineering. Little about his college career indicated that he would eventually return to the university as its president; he spent most of his time in his fraternity and his grade point average was an unimpressive 2.6, he revealed later. Still, he stayed on campus for the 1964-65 school year, long enough to earn a master's degree in civil engineering, then headed straight to the University of California at Berkeley to begin work toward a Ph.D. He graduated from Berkeley in 1969.

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The Issues

Clough took office at one of the most challenging times in Smithsonian history, just a year after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) deemed it "an endangered institution."

He inherited a $2.5 billion backlog of building projects and a fractured relationship with the Senate,which oversees public funding of the institution.

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The Network

A new face in Washington, Clough does not have extensive connections in the capital, but now he is expected to work regularly with lawmakers. Chief Justice John G. Roberts chairs the regents, while Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), plus Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Sam Johnson (R-Texas) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), serve on the board as well.