Businessman Lawrence M. Small became the eleventh Secretary of the Smithsonian in January of 2000 and served until 2007. Originally from New Rochelle, New York, Small received a BA from Brown University in Spanish literature in 1963. Prior to coming to the Smithsonian, Small worked as a vice-chairman of Citicorp and as president of Fannie Mae. He also served on the boards of the Marriott Corporation, Morehouse College, Chubb Insurance, National Building Museum, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Joffrey Ballet, and Brown University.
On September 13, 1999, the Smithsonian Board of Regents named Small as successor to Secretary I. Michael Heyman who retired in December of 1999. Small was the first Secretary selected from outside the academic world and brought different perspectives to the Institution’s mission. Small focused on securing funding for the Smithsonian’s aging infrastructure. Shortly after his arrival, Small was confronted with declining visitorship after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC. During Small’s tenure, the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum opened near Dulles Airport, and the National Museum of the American Indian opened on the National Mall. Small also accepted a significant gift from Kenneth E. Behring for the National Museum of American History and launched a new television venture known as the Smithsonian Channel.
First Secretary from the Business Community
From his non-academic perspective, during his tenure Small raised questions about the Smithsonian’s original mission of “the increase and diffusion of knowledge,” and stimulated discussions about the Institution’s purposes, goals, and values. Two new museums opened and the US Congress was given a stark overview of the Institution’s infrastructure needs in the 21st century. On March 24, 2007, Small submitted his resignation to the Board of Regents amid questions over management practices at the Institution. The Board of Regent Executive Committee Chair Roger W. Sant announced the resignation on Monday, March 26, 2007. Dr. Cristián Samper, director of the National Museum of Natural History, was named Acting Secretary, a position he held until 2008.