Storming the Castle

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  • Article concerns events surrounding the May 1994 selection of I. Michael Heyman to succeed Robert McCormick Adams as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. The author states that in keeping with the Smithsonian's respected reputation, previous Secretaries had been selected for the prestigious position by the Smithsonian Board of Regents in a quiet exercise out of public view. Events leading to the selection of Heyman, however, would prove to be a departure from the norm. At its regular meeting in September 1993, the 17-member governing board was advised by Secretary Adams of his intention to retire, though he would serve until a successor could be found. A 6-member search committee was named and Mike Heyman, by virtue of being chair of the regents' committee on nominations, was selected as search committee chairman.
  • The committee began meeting in October, collecting names of potential candidates and, in an attempt to define what qualities an ideal Secretary should possess, departed from tradition early on in its work by recognizing the need to consider the appointment of a non-scientist as Secretary, someone who had broad management experience proven by successfully running a similar institution, someone ready to face the challenges of the 1990's, with political savvy and personal experience in a number of areas including government funding concerns, private fund raising efforts, diversity matters, and political ideology issues.
  • No clear candidate emerged above the others in the early going, but as time progressed some members of the search committee came to the realization that their own chairman Heyman, having a Yale Law School background, experience as Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, and other talents and experience, would be perfect for the job. Heyman resisted the idea at first, but after giving it serious thought decided he would become a candidate for Secretary. He resigned from the search committee in March 1994 to join others on the candidate list, which included Thomas Lovejoy, a natural scientist, environmentalist, and the Smithsonian's Assistant Secretary for External Affairs for the past 6 years.
  • Well-connected in intellectual and social circles, Lovejoy had been very visible during his tenure, working in a variety of ways with big names in entertainment, business, and government, including the Vice President of the United States, to bring awareness to the world's environmental problems. Lovejoy badly wanted to be chosen Secretary and lobbied for the job by calling on his network of connections to state his case to individual members of the Board of Regents. Board members were not swayed, however, and voted instead for Heyman, making him the first non-scientist Secretary.


  • Lovejoy, Thomas E
  • Heyman, Ira Michael 5/30/1930-11/19/2011
  • Adams, Robert McCormick 1926-2018
  • Yale University School of Law
  • Board of Regents
  • University of California (1868-1952)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography

Contained within

The Washingtonian Vol. 29, No. 11 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


August 1994


  • Politics and culture
  • Smithsonian influence
  • Secretaries
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Personnel management
  • Employees
  • Biography
  • Smithsonian Institution--Employees

Physical description

pp. 56-101

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