The Smithsonian Board of Regents

October 13, 2023
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The Castle viewed through blooming saucer magnolias.

The legislation that created the Smithsonian Institution (approved by Congress Aug. 10, 1846) called for the creation of a Board of Regents to govern and administer the organization. This 17-member board, which meets four times a year, includes the Chief Justice of the United States and the Vice President of the United States as ex officio members of the Board. The Chief Justice has traditionally been elected Chancellor of the Institution by the Board. The Board created the position of chair of the Board of Regents in 2007 and the position of vice chair of the Board in 2008. 

Other members of the Board of Regents are three members of the Senate; three members of the House of Representatives; and nine citizen members, nominated by the Board and approved by the Congress in a joint resolution signed by the President of the United States. Regents who are senators and representatives serve for the duration of their elected terms. Citizen Regents may serve two six-year terms.

The chief executive officer of the Smithsonian is the Secretary, who is appointed by the Board of Regents. There have been 14 secretaries, including Lonnie G. Bunch III, since the Smithsonian was established. The Secretary also serves as secretary to the Board of Regents but is not a voting member.

Current Members of the Board of Regents

Ex Officio

  • John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice of the United States and Chancellor of the Smithsonian
  • Kamala D. Harris, Vice President of the United States

Members appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate

  • Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)
  • Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)
  • Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI)

Members appointed by the Speaker of the House        

  • Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA)
  • Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA)
  • Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE)

 Members appointed by Joint Resolution of Congress (Citizen Regents)

  • Barbara M. Barrett (Arizona), former U.S. secretary of the Air Force; former U.S. ambassador to Finland
  • John Fahey (Massachusetts), vice chair of the Board of Regents; chairman emeritus of the National Geographic Society; lead director of the Time Inc. board of directors; former chairman, president and CEO of the National Geographic Society
  • Roger W. Ferguson Jr. (Washington, D.C.), immediate past president and CEO of TIAA, former head of financial services for Swiss Re and Chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corporation
  • Michael Govan (California), CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Risa J. Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D. (Pennsylvania), chair of the Board of Regents, geriatrician and health policy expert, former President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Michael M. Lynton (New York), chairman of Snap Inc. and former CEO of Sony Entertainment
  • Denise M. O’Leary (Colorado), private venture capital investor and corporate director; member of the board of directors of American Airlines Group Inc. and Medtronic plc; chair of the board of trustees of the University of Denver
  • Franklin D. Raines (Washington, D.C.), executive chairman and co-founder of XAPPmedia and; former chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae; founding member of the advisory council of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Members of the Executive Committee

  • Dr. Risa J. Lavizzo-Mourey, chair
  • Mr. John Fahey, vice chair
  • Ambassador Barbara M. Barret

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Linda St. Thomas