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Baltimore up for Rockefeller presidency

By Reuven M. Lerner

Nobel laureate David Baltimore '61 has been offered the presidency of Rockefeller University, a biomedical research and teaching institution in New York.

Baltimore, who heads the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and is an MIT professor of biology, is considering the offer, according to his assistant, Alfred Kildow. The announcement was made in a letter to the Rockefeller faculty last Friday, and became public this week.

According to Kildow, Baltimore "wasn't seeking the job" at Rockefeller until three weeks ago, when representatives from the university called to ask him if he would consider the presidency. Baltimore initially told them that he would consider it, but changed his mind last Tuesday, Kildow said. He told Rockefeller officials not to consider him an active candidate any longer.

But last Friday, after Rockefeller University told Baltimore that their board of trustees had voted unanimously to repeat their offer, he agreed to reconsider, but said it might take "weeks" for him to decide, Kildow added.

Baltimore was not available for comment yesterday.

A spokesman for Rockefeller University said the current president, Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg, would reach the mandatory retirement age of 65 this May. He said that the university still had not formally made an announcement, and added that nothing would be announced until a candidate accepted.

According to an article in yesterday's Boston Globe, there are several reasons why Baltimore might not accept the position. One is the possibility that he might be named to succeed President Paul E. Gray '54 as MIT's president.

Kildow said that he did not know that Baltimore was under consideration for the MIT post, and noted that the presidential search committee "has not gotten very far along." He did say, however, that being considered for the MIT presidency "is not really a factor in his [Baltimore's] mind right now."

Kildow said that Baltimore might also hesitate because "Whitehead is doing so well, and his lab is doing well." Baltimore still conducts research on how genes control the immune system, and he would have to leave it behind were he to accept the presidency at Rockefeller, Kildow noted.

The Rockefeller spokesman said that while there "must be" some other candidates under consideration, he did not know how many there were. He also was not sure how long the search had taken.

Baltimore has been the subject of several investigations over the last few months because of an article that he and five colleagues published in the journal Cell. Kildow noted that Baltimore has never been accused of any fraud, and that a formal inquiry by the National Institutes of Health has not yet begun. An article in Wednesday's New York Times said that investigations earlier this year "found no evidence of fraud, misconduct, manipulation of data or serious conceptual errors." A spokesman for Rockefeller said that it appears the search committee was not affected by the inquiries.

Kildow said that Baltimore will be attending a symposium over this weekend which will include presentations from his laboratory. According to Kildow, this means that Baltimore will not be able to think about the Rockefeller offer until next week. Kildow added that Baltimore visited the university yesterday, and plans to visit again sometime next week.