John Sawhill, 63, Nature Conservancy chief

May 25, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

John Crittenden Sawhill, president and chief executive of the Nature Conservancy and former federal "energy czar" under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, died May 18 of complications from diabetes at a hospital in Richmond, Va. The Georgetown resident was 63.

An outspoken conservationist and economist, he was born in Cleveland and raised in Ruxton. He was a 1954 graduate of the Gilman School and earned a bachelor's degree from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1958.

He received a doctorate in economics from New York University in 1963.

From 1963 to 1965, Mr. Sawhill was director of credit research and planning for Commercial Credit Co. He briefly worked for McKinsey and Co., a Washington management consulting firm, before returning in 1968 to Commercial Credit, where he was promoted to senior vice president.

In 1973, he became one of the four associate directors of the Office of Management and Budget. In December of that year, he was appointed deputy director of the newly created Federal Energy Office by Nixon.

After William E. Simon, the agency's administrator, was promoted to Treasury secretary in 1974, Mr. Sawhill succeeded him. He was the energy czar until later that year, when he resigned after a clash with Ford over additional gasoline taxes, which the president opposed.

He became president of New York University in 1975. He led the effort to revive the university and succeeded in putting it back on sound financial footing.

From 1979 to 1981, Mr. Sawhill was chairman and chief executive of United States Synthetic Fuels Corp.

In 1981, he rejoined McKinsey & Co., where he specialized in energy issues.

At the time of his death, he was head of the Nature Conservancy, the world's largest private conservation organization. He took the job in 1990.

During his tenure, 7 million acres in the United States came under protection of the conservancy, whose membership increased to 1.1 million.

In 1995, Mr. Sawhill led an effort that raised $315 million for the organization.

Mr. Sawhill was a former trustee of the Gilman School and board chairman of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment.

Services were held yesterday at St. Albans Episcopal Church, 3001 Wisconsin Ave. in Washington.

He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Isabel Vandevanter Sawhill; a son, James W. Sawhill of San Francisco; a brother, James M. Sawhill of Newport News, Va.; two sisters, Sally Supplee of Palo Alto, Calif., and Munroe Hodder of London; and a grandson.

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