Williams Resigns From NSF

By David J. Hoff — September 08, 1999 1 min read
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The architect of the National Science Foundation’s K-12 education programs has left his post more than a year after settling a lawsuit that lifted an ethical cloud hanging over him.

Luther S. Williams, the NSF’s assistant director for education and human resources since 1990, is now a visiting scholar at Tulane University’s Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer.

Luther Williams

His departure last month was part of a natural transition at the federally financed foundation, which has an informal policy of rotating assistant directors every five or six years, according to Rita R. Colwell, the NSF’s director.

Mr. Williams last year paid $24,900 to settle a federal lawsuit alleging that he had accepted honoraria for four speeches he gave to universities and science groups--compensation that federal rules prohibited him from accepting. He also received a letter of reprimand from the NSF. (“NSF Official Settles Suit, Retains Post,” June 24, 1998.)

Ingredients of Success

After Mr. Williams took charge of the NSF’s precollegiate programs nearly a decade ago, he launched an ambitious program to subsidize states as well as urban and rural districts in their efforts to redesign mathematics and science programs around challenging content standards. Spending on the program this fiscal year is $119.5 million, more than one-third of the NSF’s K-12 budget.

Several of the original grant recipients failed to meet the NSF’s expectations, and Mr. Williams’ office revoked promised funding from some, including Florida, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

The “systemic initiatives” program has had its share of successes, Ms. Colwell said, and the foundation has commissioned researchers to discover the ingredients needed for success.

Judith Sunley has been named the acting assistant director of the NSF’s education and human-resources directorate. Ms. Sunley has worked in several jobs at the NSF, most recently as the assistant for policy and planning in Ms. Colwell’s office.

Mr. Williams will work at the Payson Center’s office in Arlington, Va., where the NSF has its headquarters across the Potomac River from Washington.

He did not return phone calls last week.


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