Nathans Named Johns Hopkins Interim President
Dr. Nathans was appointed this week by unanimous vote of the board of trustees, board chairman Morris W. Offit announced. Dr. Nathans, 66, will take office June 1 and lead the university during the search for a successor to William C. Richardson. Dr. Richardson will leave Hopkins June 15 and assume the presidency of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on Aug. 1.
"Dan is well known to many of us on the board, and among members of the faculty and staff," Offit said. "He is an accomplished and internationally recognized scientist and teacher. Clearly, he is one of the university's most engaged and distinguished citizens. We are fortunate that he is willing and able to accept this important assignment for the university."
Dr. Nathans, one of three co-winners of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology and a 1993 recipient of the nation's highest scientific award, the National Medal of Science, said he agreed to accept the interim presidency "because I feel so strongly about Johns Hopkins University."
"I've felt extraordinarily privileged to be a faculty member here," said Dr. Nathans, who is University Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics and senior investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
"I owe the university a great deal," he said. "I think it's important to have a smooth transition to keep the momentum going. I felt in a sense obligated to accept this.
"And I regard it as an interesting challenge," he said. "I really look forward to it."
Dr. Nathans said he does not intend to be a candidate to succeed Dr. Richardson, but also that he does not intend to be simply a caretaker.
"There are going to be real problems and real decisions to be made even before a long-term president is on board," he said. "I think an interim president ought to be the president in every sense, providing he realizes he's not going to be there very long and can't expect to make long-term changes in such a short time."
He said he expects to devote considerable time to university finances and to the Johns Hopkins Initiative, the $900 million joint campaign of the university and the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System. That effort, launched in October and scheduled to continue until 2000, has already raised commitments of more than $331 million, or 37 percent of the overall goal. The campaign has also recorded commitments of more than $235 million, 45 percent of its $525 million goal for endowment and facilities needs, the primary focus of the campaign.
Dr. Nathans said he also expects to invest weeks before he takes office learning more about other issues facing the university.
"Certainly, finance is going to take a lot of time and attention from me and the person who comes in for long term," he said. "I want to find out also if there are pressing issues on the academic side. I'll need to consult with the provost, the deans, the faculty, the various vice presidents, and the students, which I intend to do."
Dr. Nathans said that, while he will not be able to teach classes while serving as interim president, he does intend to keep an interest in research and to work frequently with the post-doctoral fellows in his laboratory.
Dr. Nathans, a native of Wilmington, Del., graduated from the University of Delaware and, in 1954, received his M.D. degree from Washington University in St. Louis. Following his residency and a period as a researcher at Rockefeller University, he joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1962.
His research has focused on viruses that cause tumors in animals and, more recently, on cellular responses to growth factors. The work for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize -- using restriction enzymes to construct physical and functional maps of the genome of viruses -- laid the groundwork for the present worldwide effort to map the human genome. His co-winners included Hamilton O. Smith, a fellow faculty member at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. From 1990 to 1993, he served on the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.
Dr. Nathans is married to Joanne Gomberg Nathans. They have three children and four grandchildren.
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