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NEH Chairman Jim Leach Announces Resignation

posted by Christopher Howard — Apr 23, 2013

Jim Leach announced today that he is leaving his post as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). His resignation is effective the first week of May.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have become associated with an agency that plays such a critical role in humanities research and public programming,” he said. “America needs an infrastructure of ideas as well as bridges, and no institution over the past half century has done more to strengthen the idea base of our democracy than the NEH. The humanities are an essential corollary to the nation’s increasing focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).”

Under Leach’s leadership, the agency created a Bridging Cultures program designed to promote understanding and mutual respect for diverse groups within the United States and abroad. As part of this effort, the NEH supported programs designed to expand citizen understanding of American history and values, the civil rights movement, and foreign cultures.

In addition, the agency helped launch a National Digital Public Library to establish a unified gateway to digital collections of books, artworks, and artifacts from libraries, museums, and other cultural sites across the country. He presided over the culmination of decades-long projects such as the publication of the Autobiography of Mark Twain and the Dictionary of American Regional English.

Leach is the ninth NEH chairman. Prior to being named to the post in August 2009, he was a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and interim director of the Institute of Politics and lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.  From 1977 to 2007, he represented Iowa in the House of Representatives, where he chaired the Banking and Financial Services Committee, the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Carole Watson, NEH deputy chairman, will be the acting head of the endowment until a permanent replacement is nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate.

Image: Jim Leach, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (photograph by Greg Powers and Audrey Crewe)