Thank you, Dr. Clough!

Staff thronged the Baird Auditorium at the Natural History Museum Dec. 8 for an All-Staff Meeting that turned out to be a heartfelt send-off for Secretary Wayne Clough, who is retiring at the end of the month.

Emceed by a tuxedo-clad Johnny Gibbons, from the Office of Communications and External Affairs, “This is Your Smithsonian Life, Wayne Clough” featured a high-kicking chorus line of Clough impersonators (with back-up dancers), confetti cannons, tributes in verse and song, video presentations and special guests.

Johnnetta Cole, director of the National Museum of African Art, highlighted major milestones during Dr. Clough’s six-and-a-half year tenure, including the reopening of the American History Museum and the Cooper Hewitt after extensive renovations, the opening of new facilities at the Conservation Biology Institute and the Environmental Research Center, as well as the 50th Anniversary of African Art..

Gen. Jack Daley, director of the Air and Space Museum, remarked on Dr. Clough’s fondness for golf when he said, “We wish you fair winds, following seas and an ever-improving short game.”

After noting that the historic groundbreaking for the National Museum of African American History and Culture Director Lonnie Bunch said, “One of the things that moves me the most, is your understanding of how important this museum would be as a safe place for all Americans to discuss issues of race that have divided us for so long.”

Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, showcased some of the Smithsonian’s “Super Special Exhibitions” in a ditty sung to the tune of “Supercalifragilistic” and Scott Wing, paleobotanist at the Natural History Museum, iterated major scientific discoveries that have been made during the Secretary’s watch. He also presented him with a six-pack of Moose Drool ale to commemorate Dr. Clough’s first fossil-hunting trip to the Big Basin of Wyoming.

Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, talked about the Secretary’s tireless travel to the Smithsonian’s far-flung research centers while Suzan Murray, head veterinarian at the National Zoo, praised Dr. Clough’s “cub-scouting” skills. Nancy Bechtol, head of the Office of Facilities Engineering and Operations, pointed out that Dr. Clough has always been first on the scene whenever natural disaster threatened the Smithsonian—whether using his engineering expertise to calculate the epicenter of the 2011 earthquake or learning to operate a snowblower during the Snowpocalypse.

Michael Caruso, the editor of Smithsonian magazine, acknowledged that the Secretary is sometimes a little starstruck, crooning “I only have eyes for you” (and admitting he is no relation to famed tenor Enrico Caruso.) “I most warn you, never get between Wayne and a Hollywood star—you’ll get run over,” he joked. Caruso also introduced a tribute to Anne Clough: “But there’s someone he loves even more than Cate Blanchett…”

Video greetings from staff and Smithsonian affiliates culminated with a surprise appearance by Michele Obama. “I am thrilled to join in this celebration of a dear friend of mine and someone who has done tremendous work for Americans all across the country, Dr. Wayne Clough,” she said. “In his six years as Secretary, Wayne has made the Smithsonian more accessible and interactive. He’s focused on opening up the Smithsonian to our young people through technology and educational programming. And thanks to his leadership, with a click of a mouse, more people can access our country’s art, and history, and heritage than ever before. So Wayne, my husband and I can’t thank you enough for your tremendous work over these past few years. And we wish you and Anne all of the best as you head off on your next adventure. Take care.”

The Smithsonian’s historian, Pam Henson, summed things up, “Never before in the history of this Institution has there been as loving, and joyful, and creative a send-off for a Secretary as there was in Baird Auditorium this morning.  It reflects the belief across the Institution that we were so very lucky you came here.”

In a note to staff, Dr. Clough refelcted on his tenure at the Smithsonian:

“It is bittersweet to part from a place where I have had so many memorable moments and made so many good friends, but even the best of times cannot last forever.

“In my retirement, I plan to write about my experiences at the Smithsonian and to resume my teaching activities at Georgia Tech where I will return to my first love, helping young people prepare for life.

“I will not be far away and will continue to watch for the remarkable things that the Smithsonian community does for our nation and the world. As I have said often, for all of the great history of the Smithsonian, its future is far more full of potential than at any time in its past. More than ever before, you will reach more people, make greater discoveries, provide a wider net of education, and help inform the leaders of the world about the issues we face as a society.”

Thank you, Dr. Clough.


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During Dr. Clough’s farewell reception, several staff members had individual pictures taken with him. Those photos can be found at this link >>

Posted: 10 December 2014
About the Author:

Alex di Giovanni has been editing The Torch since August 2006. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she worked as a writer and editor for the National Geographic Society, Plexus Scientific, The Nature Conservancy, The National Foreign Language Center and St. Martin’s Press, among others. She has the best job in the world.

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