Yesterday, Smithsonian staff were invited to a town hall meeting to share our views on the ideal qualities of the next Smithsonian Secretary. The chairman of the search committee, Regent Alan Spoon, ran the meeting with Regent Roger Sant, and members of the executive search firm hired for the task.
The discussion was lively, as one might imagine. A committment to scholarship, intellectual curiosity and a love of lifelong learning seemed to top the list as the most desirable qualities expressed by Smithsonian staff. Most want someone who understands the breadth and depth of the Smithsonian and its uncomparable particularity. The scientific community in particular described our global reputation and urged that the next Secretary strive to maintain our international relations in regard to research. Alan Spoon concurred that the next Secretary be committed to “liberating the talent” of the Smithsonian, recognizing that its value lie in staff as well as collections. One of my favorite comments was about finding someone to wallow in “the delicious fulfillment of our great mission.”
Luckily, the search committee has set up a designated email account to collect more thoughts from SI staff, and plans to hold more listening sessions. It’s important to know too that Regents’ names, committees, bylaws, reports, proceedings and more are all available to the public on our website.
But I’m curious about your thoughts as members of our “extended family.” what do you think are the most salient qualities for the next Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution?!