Secretary David Skorton will depart the Smithsonian in June

Secretary Dr. David Skorton will leave the Smithsonian in June 2019, after serving four years as leader of the Institution. He will transition the organization during the next six months. Skorton, a board-certified cardiologist, will become president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, effective July 15, 2019.

Staff and invited guests filled the historic Arts and Industries Building for the installation of Dr. David Skorton as 13th Secretary, Oct. 19, 2015. (Photo By Joyce Boghosian)

Staff and invited guests filled the historic Arts and Industries Building for the installation of Dr. David Skorton as 13th Secretary, Oct. 19, 2015. (Photo By Joyce Boghosian)

Skorton notified Smithsonian Chancellor and Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. In receiving the news, Roberts said, “The Regents, and the Smithsonian, are fortunate to have had Secretary Skorton’s leadership, vision and commitment during a crucial period when the Smithsonian is expanding its reach and focusing its research and educational efforts. He has laid a solid foundation for the Institution’s future.”

Under Skorton’s leadership, the Smithsonian developed its bold strategic plan that envisions a more unified Smithsonian that engages and inspires more people and catalyzes critical conversations on important issues. In addition, the Smithsonian opened the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Skorton also unveiled the Smithsonian’s plans for a collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, a plan that will mark the first time the Smithsonian has a permanent gallery in another country. In 2018, he guided the conclusion of the Smithsonian’s successful capital campaign, which raised $1.88 billion, exceeding its goal of $1.5 billion.

Dr. David Skorton receives the ceremonial key to the Smithsonian from Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, Oct. 19, 2015. (Photo by Joyce Boghosian)

Dr. David Skorton receives the ceremonial key to the Smithsonian from Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, Oct. 19, 2015. (Photo by Joyce Boghosian)

“We are grateful for Secretary Skorton’s leadership and commitment to the Smithsonian,” said David Rubenstein, chair of the Board of Regents. “During his tenure, he has developed and started the implementation of a strategic plan that will drive the Institution forward and to greater heights. We recognize his passion for medicine and that this is a natural transition for him. We wish him much continued success.”

Laughing child holds music as Skorton plays the flute

Logan Belitzsky is an enthusiastic assistant as Secretary Skorton leads the class in a rousing rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” (Photo by Hugh Talman)

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve as the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian,” Skorton said in a note to staff. “It will not be easy to leave the Smithsonian. Working with and learning from you over these years has been an enriching and joyful experience. You have taught me to better understand and respect deeply the cultural, scientific, historical and artistic roots of our nation and the world.  I am most grateful for this opportunity and the many friendships forged with Robin and me throughout the Smithsonian and beyond.

creative cakes

David Skorton and Robin Davisson examine some of the creative cakes submitted for the Food Fight contest at the 2014 Staff Picnic as Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture looks on. (Photo by John Gibbons)

“Increasingly, the state of health care in our country has been on my mind.  As you know, I’ve always been a doctor at heart, and recently, an opportunity arose to return to my roots in medicine.  s most know, I have always been a doctor at heart. Part of my lifelong determination has been to positively affect health care, be a voice for patients and learners, and drive change for positive outcomes in the medical field. This new opportunity to lead AAMC will allow me to participate in shaping the future of health care.”

Skorton is highly regarded for his efforts and determination to engage and ensure that the Smithsonian represents all, and that visitors “see themselves” in Smithsonian museums. In 2018, he launched the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, “Because of Her Story,” to highlight and tell a more complete story of women and their achievements and contributions to the nation. He oversaw the plans to open the Smithsonian’s first Latino gallery space dedicated to celebrating the U.S. Latino experience, and established the Smithsonian Secretary’s Youth Advisory Council as a way to gain advice from young people. In addition, his thought leadership and focus on convening conversations has highlighted the importance of national dialogues and exchanging of ideas.

Group in red chairs seated on dais in front of audience.

From left, National Museum of Natural History Director Kirk Johnson, Smithsonian Regent David Rubenstein, Smithsonnian Regent Doris Matsui and Secretary David Skorton (back to camera) discuss Smithsonian 2022 at a special event, “The Short Conversation,” Dec. 1, 2017 at the Arts and Industries Building.

“I have often said that the Smithsonian is a national treasure and I mean it,” Skorton said. “I will leave with great memories, incredible experiences and in awe of the great work this institution does every day. I’m proud of the strategic plan and confident that the next Secretary will be in a position to fully implement it.”

Skorton will begin working immediately to ensure a smooth transition of leadership so that the Smithsonian’s work is uninterrupted. He will continue to lead the effort to xecute the five-year strategic plan launched in 2017.

“As we look toward celebrating the 175th anniversary of the Smithsonian in 2021, the Smithsonian will continue to strive to have greater reach, greater relevance and greater impact,” said Regents Vice Chair Steve Case. “I was honored to work closely with Secretary Skorton throughout his tenure, and I am grateful for the leadership he provided in putting together a new strategic plan and building a strong team to execute it. I—and all members of the Board of Regents—look forward to working with the senior leadership team to continue the Smithsonian’s great work and recruiting a new Secretary to lead the next chapter of this treasured institution.”

Secretary Skorton with visitors

Secretary Skorton helps a young visitor and her family plan their Smithsonian visit during a stint working at the Castle’s information desk. (Photo by David Haddock)

The Board of Regents is forming a committee to conduct a national search for a new Secretary. The goal is to select the next Secretary before Skorton leaves to ensure a smooth transition.

Skorton joined the Smithsonian in July 2015, succeeding Secretary Wayne Clough. Before coming to the Smithsonian, Skorton was president of Cornell University for nine years. His last day at the Smithsonian will be June 15, 2019.

Posted: 20 December 2018
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