Nobel winner selected interim Hopkins leader

April 22, 1995|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,Sun Staff Writer

The Johns Hopkins University yesterday named one of its Nobel-Prize winning faculty members to lead the school as it searches for a permanent president.

Dr. Daniel Nathans, 66, a physician and professor at the Hopkins School of Medicine for half his life, will become Hopkins' interim president on June 1, university officials said.

Dr. Nathans, who shared a Nobel Prize in 1978, takes over from President William C. Richardson, who will leave the campus June 15 and become president of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Mich., in August. Mr. Richardson has been at Hopkins since 1990.

Dr. Nathans is the first interim president ever named at Hopkins. The soft-spoken researcher is University Professor of Molecular Biology and a senior investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Hopkins.

He said he would serve for six to 12 months and would not be a candidate for the permanent post. But he said he did not intend to be merely a caretaker.

"I don't want to be a standby president, I want to be an active president," he said. "I don't see myself just keeping the store in order, I see myself vigorously pushing things that are most worthwhile."

Dr. Nathans mentioned undergraduate education and life on the Homewood campus, where he never has taught.

Much of his time will be spent raising money for the university's $900 million initiative.

Dr. Richardson took the campus by surprise when he announced his resignation in December. He was expected to spearhead the fund-raising effort, which formally was kicked off in October.

"Donors don't contribute to a president; they're convinced the institution is deserving of its support," Dr. Nathans said.

Robert R. Lindgren, Hopkins' vice president for development and alumni relations, said the university has received gifts and pledges of about $331.8 million.

A university spokesman would not comment on Dr. Nathans' salary. Dr. Richardson received $330,543 in salary and housing stipends for the 12 months ending June 30, 1994.

Morris W. Offit, chairman of the Hopkins trustees, announced the interim appointment in a telephone conference call with reporters yesterday afternoon in Shriver Hall.

Mr. Offit called from a cellular phone after he was delayed on a train outside Wilmington, Del.

"This is such a prideful moment for Johns Hopkins University," Mr. Offit said. "We wanted someone whom the Hopkins family and the community beyond would see as the perfect choice."

He said a permanent president would not be selected and on campus until next winter at the earliest.

Dr. Nathans was one of three scientists who shared the 1978 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work using restriction enzymes to construct physical and functional maps of the genome of viruses.

That research laid much of the groundwork for the nation's $3 billion effort to map the human genome.

While serving as interim president, Dr. Nathans will continue to supervise his laboratory on the East Baltimore medical campus.

Dr. Nathans graduated from the University of Delaware and received his medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1954.

He joined Hopkins' faculty in 1962 after a stint as a researcher at Rockefeller University.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

In 1993, he received the nation's highest award in science, the National Medal of Science.

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