From Plant Press, Vol. 18, No. 4, October 2015.
To be perfectly frank I have mixed feelings about becoming Chair of Botany. It is clearly an honor to be entrusted with this position but it comes with a price. My personal scientific ambitions will have to be subordinated to the needs of the Department, the Museum, and the Institution. In those fleeting moments when I am being honest with myself, I will have to admit that I will never finish all of the research projects I contemplated or even a number of those that I initiated. This might have been the case regardless of whether or not I became Chair, but now I can delude myself and blame my new administrative responsibilities for my failure to realize all of my dreams. My tendency to complain (well known to my fellow curators) also will have to be severely curtailed. The reason for this should be obvious: I am not fond of criticizing myself. I will however accept responsibility for my decisions and I trust that most of them will be reasonable and fair.
The transition to becoming Chair was interesting. Technically, the baton was passed on October 1, 2015, but anyone watching this race would have seen the former and present Chair running side by side for a good amount of time before then. In fact, I think we are still running side by side. Shortly before I officially took the helm, I felt as if a tidal wave had washed over me, but I appear to have survived. I never realized the extent of the email traffic the Chair receives nor could I have imagined the number of meetings one is required to attend. My first official act (a very wise one) was to go on annual leave but even while I was on vacation in Egypt and Turkey, I found myself reading email each day at breakfast and trying to respond to those messages that demanded my attention. If I had not done this, this column would not have been written by the deadline. I would also still be sorting through two weeks of accumulated emails.
One of the nice things about becoming the Chair of Botany is that it is liberating. By that I mean I feel free to approach other department and unit heads in the Museum (and elsewhere) and ask them how we in Botany can find common ground to improve our science, collections, and exhibits. I have worked at the Smithsonian for almost 25 years and I thought I had a good understanding of our Department, the Museum, and the Institution. I now realize that I do not. I am learning new things every day and I find this exciting and challenging.
During my tenure as Chair I intend to work hard and I expect all members of this Department to work just as hard. I am committed to helping all of you succeed with your research. We are very privileged to be working in this Museum and Institution and with privilege comes obligation. We are obligated to do the best that we can with the resources we are given. I know we need more money, more space, and more help, but placed in a global perspective our current resources are quite generous. I intend to have fun while helping improve our research and collections and I hope all of you will have fun, too. My ultimate goal as Chair is simple: I hope to help make a very good Department even better.