PASADENA, Calif.- David Baltimore, the seventh president of the California Institute of Technology, will retire on June 30, 2006, after nearly nine years in the post. He will remain at the Institute, where he intends to focus on his scientific work and teaching.
"This is not a decision that I have made easily," Baltimore announced to the Caltech trustees, faculty, staff, and students, "but I am convinced that the interests of the Institute will be best served by a presidential transition at this particular time in its history. By next summer we will be well along in the process of implementing our plans to strengthen the financial foundation of the Institute. Although our $1.4 billion campaign is not scheduled for completion until the end of 2007, we have made remarkable progress, and successful attainment of its audacious goals will remain my highest priority. As these important endeavors near their final stages, it will be time for the Institute to once again turn to the future, guided most effectively by the revitalizing vision and leadership of a new president."
He has agreed to remain in the position until a successor is named.
"David Baltimore's articulate advocacy of the Institute's mission has played a huge role in raising the public's awareness of Caltech as a unique national treasure. Our task ahead is to find our next president to carry this vision of excellence into the future," said Kent Kresa, the chairman of the Caltech Board of Trustees.
Baltimore, 67, assumed the presidency on October 15, 1997. His tenure saw many significant events at Caltech. Early on, he oversaw the completion of a fund-raising initiative for the biological sciences, marked by the construction and dedication of the Broad Center for the Biological Sciences. He launched the current $1.4 billion capital campaign, which has included receipt of the largest gift to higher education, $600 million from Gordon and Betty Moore and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The campaign still has two years to run, but has already raised almost $1.1 billion. An important aspect of Caltech is its stewardship of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, supported by NASA. Baltimore's presidency has seen many spectacular JPL successes, notably the Mars Exploration Rovers, as well as the appointment of a new director, Dr. Charles Elachi.
"David Baltimore will go down in history as not only a great scientist, but also as one of the great presidents of Caltech," said Eli Broad, a trustee of, and major donor to, the Institute. "It is rare to find someone of his intelligence, integrity, and leadership who can relate so well to people both within and outside the world of science. It was David who inspired Edye and me to become interested in science. We had no background in the field, but he made us feel comfortable. We are fortunate that he will continue his research at Caltech."
Other events during his term have been Caltech's acquisition of the former St. Luke Medical Center in northeast Pasadena; the funding of the design-development phase of the Thirty Meter Telescope; and the establishment of the Information Science and Technology (IST) initiative. Baltimore championed contemporary architecture, chosing James Freed of Pei, Cobb, Freed for the Broad Center, Thom Mayne of Morphosis for the new Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Rem Koolhaas for the new Walter and Leonore Annenberg Center for Information Science and Technology. The latter two buildings are still in the design phase. Baltimore worked toward increasing diversity at Caltech, particularly by bringing more women into administrative roles. He also was concerned about the quality of undergraduate life, appointing the first full-time vice president for student affairs and starting a $3 million fund for enhancing student life. During the last year, an important activity for him has been his membership on the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee for the California stem cell initiative.
"David Baltimore is an incisive and articulate leader who has strengthened Caltech's core commitments to excellence in research and teaching and has led several initiatives that have ensured promising avenues of research can be pursued at the Institute," said Paul Jennings, Caltech's provost. In a written announcement to the campus and its trustees, Baltimore said, "It has been a privilege to serve as president of Caltech and a pleasure to work with the dedicated and remarkable Caltech faculty, staff, students, trustees, and alumni. The administration in place at Caltech is an extraordinary group, and I will retire with full confidence in their abilities to effect a smooth transition. During my time in the president's office, I have worked to keep Caltech the unique and highly effective university that was imagined into existence by George Ellery Hale almost 100 years ago. Its dedication to excellence has been undiminished, requiring that it continually be in flux, reaching for the altering frontiers of knowledge. The great gift from Gordon and Betty Moore has provided the resources for maintaining our momentum and was truly a defining event of my time as Caltech's president."
Baltimore will remain at Caltech as a professor of biology. In June he was awarded a grant of $13.9 million by the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative for his proposal "Engineering Immunity Against HIV and Other Dangerous Pathogens," which promises to address the challenge of creating immunological methods to deal with chronic diseases. This grant was awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
"David has been a wonderful Caltech president," said Caltech faculty chair Henry Lester, the Bren Professor of Biology. "His energy, articulate intelligence, and vision have resulted in a stronger, more interesting, and more diverse Caltech. Speaking also as a Caltech biologist, I'm delighted that he will remain on campus to contribute to our research and teaching programs."
Baltimore, who received a Nobel Prize for his work on the genetic mechanisms of viruses in 1975 at the age of 37, has contributed widely to the understanding of cancer, AIDS, and the molecular basis of the immune response. He has continued to operate his research lab while president and has announced many important findings while at Caltech, including establishing a new methodology to help fight cancer, developing a new gene therapy that is highly effective in preventing HIV from infecting individual cells in the immune system, and creating a new methodology for producing transgenic mice. He has also joined with others in proposing a new global effort to create an HIV vaccine. He received the National Medal of Science in 1999 from President Bill Clinton and the Warren Alpert Foundation Scientific Prize in 2001 for pioneering work leading to cancer therapy.
Not only has Baltimore been prolific in writing about his findings in scientific journals, but he also raised Caltech's visibility by contributing opinion pieces to general interest media on such subjects as the value of stem cell research, the unnecessary public panic that arose during the SARS epidemic, science research under the Bush administration, and maintaining the scientific workforce in the U.S.
"Throughout my years as a Caltech trustee, I have been repeatedly impressed by David's skill at communicating the importance of Caltech to a wide range of constituencies, from the scientific community to potential donors to readers of daily newspapers," said Kresa, the chairman of the Caltech Board of Trustees.
Baltimore has several outstanding administrative and public policy achievements to his credit. In the mid-1970s, he played an important role in creating a consensus on national science policy regarding recombinant DNA research. He served as founding director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT from 1982 until 1990, and was president of Rockefeller University in 1990-91. An early advocate of federal AIDS research, he cochaired the 1986 National Academy of Sciences Committee on a National Strategy for AIDS and was appointed in 1996 to head the National Institutes of Health AIDS Vaccine Research Committee.
Feynman Professor and Professor of Theoretical Physics Kip Thorne, who chaired the faculty search committee that selected Baltimore, feels Baltimore has accomplished what the search committee hoped he would. "We attracted David to Caltech to provide leadership in a period of change-changing relations to the federal government, changing ties to the private sector, and a growth in biological sciences at Caltech-while maintaining our traditional strengths. He has led us through this superbly well, and has been a remarkable intellectual force on campus. His presidential shoes will be hard to fill, but I'm tremendously pleased he will remain as a professor, liberated to contribute more strongly to the intellectual life of the Caltech community," Thorne said.
Walter Weisman, trustee chairman of the Caltech capital campaign, has worked closely with Baltimore since its kickoff in 2002, and is pleased with the impact Baltimore has had. "David Baltimore has made an enormous contribution to our campaign success. I am delighted that he will continue to assist the Institute with the campaign as he moves to full-time research. His legacy at Caltech will be felt for years to come, thanks in no small part to his fund-raising achievements as president of the Institute."
Gordon Moore-a Caltech alumnus who was trustee chairman when Baltimore was hired-said, "David's leadership over the last nine years has significantly strengthened Caltech in many important ways. His impact will be felt for decades."
Ben Rosen, also an alumnus and former trustee chairman, said, "During his years of leadership at Caltech, David Baltimore elevated the already considerable reputation and strengths of the Institute. The faculty is stronger than it has ever been. The students are smarter, more diverse, and better rounded. The facilities have been substantially augmented to meet the growing needs of leading-edge research. JPL has achieved triumph after triumph. And the ambitious capital campaign that began during his period in office, and led by his energetic fund-raising skills, will assure that future Caltech needs are met and our goals achieved. Sometime next year, David will begin doing research full time in his biology lab, and a new president will lead Caltech. But because David will remain on campus, we'll still be lucky enough to share with him his myriad interests outside of science, a small sample of which would include art, fly-fishing, music, architecture, travel, literature, and politics."
Caltech's Board of Trustees will immediately initiate the search process for a new president.
Baltimore is the seventh person to lead "modern day" Caltech, his predecessors being James A. B. Scherer, Robert A. Millikan, Lee A. DuBridge, Harold Brown, Marvin L. Goldberger, and Thomas E. Everhart.