Clough will become the 12th secretary of the worlds largest museum and research complex on July 1, assuming control of an institution that has been in turmoil in the past year.
I know the Smithsonian has challenges, Clough said at a news conference in Washington. We will surmount those challenges fairly quickly and move on.
Clough called the institution a treasure for our country and a great integrator of knowledge from different subject areas.
Smithsonian board Chairman Roger Sant said in a statement that Clough will usher in a new era, bringing a unique combination of academic achievement, talent, leadership skills and experience in public service, science, management and development.
Clough, 66, has served as president of Georgia Tech since 1994 and has degrees in civil engineering. He is credited with transforming the Atlanta school into a top 10 public university, boosting spending on research and raising nearly $1.5 billion.
He previously held high-level posts at the University of Washington and Virginia Tech and taught at Stanford and Duke universities.
During his remarkable career, Wayne has shown an ability to dramatically advance the institutions and constituencies he has served, said Alan Spoon, a member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents and chairman of the search committee.
The Smithsonian, which includes the National Zoo and the National Air and Space Museum, is returning to its academic roots with the selection of Clough. The first 10 secretaries to lead the institution had academic backgrounds, most of them in the sciences.
The last secretary, businessman Lawrence Small, resigned a year ago amid an investigation into his spending. Several top officials followed him out the door.
The institution also has been criticized for its executive compensation and questionable business practices. The Smithsonians business unit struck a controversial deal with Showtime Networks Inc. to form a joint TV venture.
Later, museum scientists clashed with administrators over political concerns on a climate-change exhibit, and the Smithsonian backtracked on a donation from the oil industry to fund an upcoming Ocean Hall.
Cristian Samper, a biologist who was director of the National Museum of Natural History, has been serving as acting secretary. In the past year, Samper began reforming the Smithsonians business practices and executive travel policies with the Board of Regents. He will continue as acting secretary through July and then will resume as museum director.
Clough will be paid $490,000 with no additional compensation or housing allowance.
Museum curators and researchers had complained Small was too focused on money rather than the Smithsonians educational mission. Small was to earn $915,698 last year in total compensation more than double what he earned during his first year as secretary in 2000.
An audit last year by the Smithsonians inspector general found that Small charged the institution more than $1.1 million for agreeing to use his home for official functions. The housing expenses included $273,000 for housekeeping, $2,535 to clean a chandelier and $12,000 for service on his backyard swimming pool.
Meanwhile, as executive compensation grew under Small, the Smithsonian carried a hefty $2.5 billion backlog on facilities maintenance.
The Smithsonian is heavily dependent on taxpayer funds, receiving 70 percent of its $1.1 billion annual budget from Congress.