Robert L. Gallucci, a former American diplomat and weapons inspector, has been chosen to be the next president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the nation’s largest foundations.
He will replace Jonathan F. Fanton, who has served two five-year terms and under the Chicago organization’s policy is required to step down.
Mr. Gallucci, 63, is currently dean of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, in Washington, but previously spent 21 years working in the federal government.
During the Clinton administration, he served in the State Department and oversaw how the Dayton Peace Accords took effect. That agreement ended a three-year war in the former Yugoslavia. He also led efforts to stem the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.
After the first Gulf War, he was part of the United Nations Special Commission charged with uncovering chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs in Iraq.
In an interview, Mr. Gallucci said he was attracted to the foundation job because of the wide-range of causes MacArthur supports. While best know for its “genius” awards, MacArthur makes grants in 60 countries to improve human rights, the arts, the environment, and other areas. The foundation has $5-billion in assets.
“I was and am struck by the breadth and depth of the mission,” he said.
While Mr. Gallucci’s career has primarily focused on international matters, he said he is educating himself about housing and other domestic issues that are grant-making priorities for MacArthur. “I’m looking forward to learning about those areas where I really don’t have expertise,” he said.
Robert Denham, a Los Angeles lawyer who is chairman of MacArthur’s Board of Directors, said it choose Mr. Gallucci after a seven-month search because of “his combination of terrific intellect and terrific experience dealing with really big problems.”
Mr. Denham, as well as former State Department colleagues of Mr. Gallucci, praised the incoming MacArthur president for his ability to remain calm under fire.
For example, while in Iraq in 1991, Saddham Hussein’s security forces detained Mr. Gallucci and a team of about 40 weapon inspectors because they refused to turn over sensitive documents about the country’s nuclear programs. Held in a parking lot for five days, he slept on top of his Nissan Pathfinder in the 105-degree heat and ate MREs. (Meals, Ready-to-Eat). Eventually the Iraqis acquiesced.
“I don’t think I’ve seen him angry or sobbing, but I’ve seen him firm and always effective,” said Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington that receives support from MacArthur. Mr. Talbot worked with Mr. Gallucci at the State Department.
Mr. Denham added: Given the global recession, “it’s clearly important to have leadership that can make tough decisions under pressure and doesn’t have difficulty dealing with a crisis environment.”
Indeed, Mr. Gallucci is joining the foundation at a tumultuous time.
Like other foundations, the organization’s assets have eroded, losing 20 percent of its worth last year. Despite the loss, MacArthur has pledged to keep the amount of its grant making steady this year at around $260-million — an approach Mr. Gallucci said he agrees with.
“The foundation’s mission is in part to improve the human condition; well, that condition has been substantially harmed by the economy, and the foundation should respond to the extent that it is able,” he said.
Mr. Gallucci declined to say how much he will be earning in his new position. Mr. Denham said it will be on par with Mr. Fanton’s compensation. In 2007, the most recent year data are available, Mr. Fanton received $523,368.
Mr. Gallucci will officially join the foundation July 1 and said he will first do a lot of listening to the board and staff members to better understand MacArthur’s role.
“I don’t come in with any preconceived notions of what I want to do, except do good,” he said.