The Reagan administration intends to nominate Lynne Cheney, a senior editor at The Washingtonian magazine and wife of Republican Rep. Richard Cheney of Wyoming, to become chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, according to congressional and endowment sources. Although Cheney is still undergoing the requisite security checks and clearances, the White House may announce its choice this week, sources said.
Cheney's selection is being met with approval and relief by members of the scholarly community, whose objections to Edward A. Curran, the previous nominee, were influential in the Senate's rejection of him last fall.
"There have been a lot of good candidates mentioned, and she sounds like a winner to me," said O.B. Hardison, chairman of the National Humanities Alliance, a trade association for humanities groups and scholars. "She has a PhD and editorial experience, and she certainly knows this town."
In recent months the two names most often mentioned as nominees were Edwin J. Delattre, outgoing president of St. John's College in Annapolis, and Robert B. Hollander, a professor of European literature at Princeton. Sources yesterday suggested that Cheney was the administration's compromise candidate after the political supporters for both men were unable to agree on who should get the nod. Delattre is known to be a friend of former endowment chairman William Bennett, now secretary of education, and Hollander had the support of prominent academics and scholarly groups. The White House declined to comment on the nomination.
Cheney, 44, is a Wyoming native with a PhD in 19th-century British literature from the University of Michigan. She has worked as a college instructor and published two novels.
For the past two years she has been a writer and editor at The Washingtonian, where colleagues say she is valued for her political connections, intelligence and energy. In addition to feature stories, Cheney writes a regular column, called Washingtoniana, about history, landmarks and traditions in the Federal City. Last spring, she wrote an article titled "The Decline of the Dutiful Wife," which explored the advantages and problems encountered by two-career couples in Washington.
"She's very savvy in knowing how this town operates," said Washingtonian Editor Jack Limpert. "It would be unfair to Lynne to say she's an extension of Dick, but the fact is the two of them are a very smart, very well-connected couple."
The Cheneys have been a presence in political Washington for more than a decade. Richard Cheney was President Ford's chief of staff before returning to Wyoming to run for Congress. Last year, Lynne Cheney was appointed to the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution.
The chairmanship of the endowment has been vacant since Bennett left for the Education Department early last year. Curran, deputy director of the Peace Corps and a former headmaster at the National Cathedral School for Girls, was rejected after protracted lobbying and congressional testimony by academics who believed he lacked the political commitment and scholarly credentials necessary to run the agency. Curran made headlines in 1982 when, as director of the National Institute of Education, he wrote President Reagan suggesting that his agency be eliminated. His boss, former secretary of education Terrell Bell, learned of the letter after it was sent and Curran resigned soon after