Interim Leader Takes Charge at American Geophysical Union

27 January 2009

Joint Release

WASHINGTON—An executive who specializes in interim leadership of associations and nonprofits, Robert T. Van Hook, today takes the helm as Interim Executive Director of the world’s largest organization of Earth and space scientists—the American Geophysical Union, or AGU.

Van Hook will manage AGU’s day-to-day affairs while the organization conducts a worldwide search for a successor to A.F. (Fred) Spilhaus, Jr., who served as AGU’s Executive Director for the past 39 years.

Dr. Spilhaus had announced last October that he was planning to retire. The search for his successor is expected to begin in the summer of 2009, and take from six to 18 months. Van Hook will not be a candidate for the successor executive director position.

“AGU is a growing, vibrant organization that wishes to thoughtfully chart its course for the coming decades. I am a professional interim executive, here to build on Fred Spilhaus’ legacy. I want to help this extraordinary Union of researchers, teachers, and students take careful stock of where it is today, where it wants to go tomorrow, and what kind of staff leader it needs to help it get there,” Van Hook says.

During the transition period, the Interim Executive Director will assess AGU’s operations and work with the organization’s Council, the governing body that represents AGU’s 55,000 members worldwide, to modify and update many aspects of AGU’s structure and functions. “This is a great time for creativity and change,” Van Hook says.

Van Hook has been an association executive for more than 25 years, leading nonprofit and governmental organizations at the local, state, and national levels. He is currently president of Transition Management Consulting, Inc., a Washington, D.C.–based company that specializes in providing interim executive management and transition consulting to associations and nonprofits (website).

Since co-founding Transition Management Consulting in 2000, Van Hook has served as interim executive for numerous organizations, including the American Institute of Architects, Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, Center for American Nurses, and Society for Interventional Radiology.

Van Hook holds a degree of Master of Science in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies from the University of South Florida in Tampa. He has been a Certified Association Executive since 1988 and was selected as a Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives in 2001.

Because of Van Hook’s depth of experience in interim management and other qualifications, says AGU General Secretary Carol Finn, “I and other leaders in the AGU Council are delighted that Bob has agreed to guide AGU through this transition. He has an excellent track record and has come to us highly recommended.” Finn is a Senior Research Geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver, Colorado.

Dr. Spilhaus will continue to serve AGU as Executive Director Emeritus, acting as a counselor and historian.

“We are indebted to Fred for his decades of excellent service, leadership, and dedication,” says Finn. “While it is sad for AGU that the long, fruitful era of Fred Spilhaus’s direction has ended, we realize that this change of leadership also offers opportunities for AGU to flourish in new ways.”

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