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WHOI Board Launches Presidential Search

Photo © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

December 9, 2019

The Board of Trustees at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) announced the formation of the Presidential Search Committee (PSC), whose members are tasked with recommending the Institution’s next president and director. Dr. Mark Abbott, current WHOI president and director, announced plans to step down at the end of 2020 at a town hall meeting on November 22, 2019.

“I am committed to working with the Board of Trustees and my leadership team to achieve a smooth transition,” Abbott said. Abbott is the tenth director in WHOI’s 89-year history. He has served in the leadership role since October 1, 2015, succeeding Susan Avery, who served from 2008 to 2015.

The PSC is comprised of five members from the Board of Trustees and five members from the scientific and engineering staff. It will be co-chaired by Mr. Michael Esposito, a trustee, and Dr. Amy Bower, Senior Scientist and Chair of the Physical Oceanography department. The committee will work closely with Spencer Stuart, a global executive search and leadership consulting firm that will recruit candidates.

”We are incredibly grateful to Mark Abbott for his capable leadership. Morale is at an all-time high,” said David Scully, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “We seek to build on this momentum and hire a new director who can be a global voice for WHOI and the ocean at this critical time when the decisions humanity makes will likely determine what our ocean looks like for centuries to come.“

The PSC will hold its first meetings December 17-18, 2019, when it plans to interview key members of the leadership team and conduct two town hall meetings with staff. The PSC plans to interview key WHOI stakeholders in early 2020. Esposito and Bower hope to begin the first round of candidate interviews in spring of 2020.

Members of the Presidential Search Committee:

Mike Esposito, Co-Chair
Larry Clark
Peg Flanagan
Admiral John Richardson
Maria Wilhelm

WHOI Staff
Amy Bower, Co-Chair
Amy Kukulya
Dan Lizarralde
Bernhard Peucker-Ehrenbrink
Ann Tarrant

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the oceans’ role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit