William Madia, Stanford vice president for the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory since 2008, has announced that he will retire from the position at the end of September.

William Madia.

William Madia (Image credit: Courtesy Centrus Energy)

Provost Persis Drell has asked Kathryn Moler, vice provost and dean of research, to take on the added responsibilities of the vice president for SLAC moving forward.

“We are extremely fortunate to have had Bill Madia’s remarkable leadership and expertise at SLAC,” said President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. “He leaves an outstanding legacy and tremendous record of service. Under his guidance, SLAC became one of the nation’s premier Department of Energy laboratories, and today it has a bright future with great promise for continued innovation and discovery. We thank Bill for all that he has helped Stanford accomplish, and we wish him all the best.”

In 2008, Madia was asked to fill what was then a new vice-presidential position at Stanford. It was created to provide a direct link between Stanford and SLAC and to enhance collaboration and coordination among the laboratory, Stanford and the Department of Energy (DOE). SLAC is a national science laboratory managed and operated by Stanford on behalf of DOE.

At that time, Madia said, the laboratory was struggling with challenges in such areas as its research agenda, workplace safety, aging infrastructure and maintenance. As vice president, Madia worked with – and helped ensure that – the laboratory management conducted its work and operations with distinction. He also chaired the SLAC Board of Overseers.

But Madia stressed that the changes that have made SLAC into one of the premier DOE research laboratories today were the work of a large team encompassing SLAC management and staff, Stanford faculty and administrators and DOE.

Spectacular success story

“Many people came together to turn SLAC into the spectacular success story it is today,” he said.

Madia points specifically to the laboratory’s transition from a single-purpose, high-energy physics facility to one specializing in photon science. “No other Department of Energy national laboratory has ever made the kind of mission transition that SLAC has,” he said. “It’s unprecedented in the history of the lab system, and being part of that transition has been richly rewarding.”

He credits Drell, a former SLAC director, and current director Chi-Chang Kao with the vision and leadership that enabled the transition.

The admiration from both is mutual.

“I personally owe a great deal to Bill Madia for all his wise advice and counsel over the years,” Drell said. “He was invaluable in mentoring me in my role as lab director at SLAC, and he did the same for many other colleagues, helping us improve the management and political skills we needed in order to be effective.”

She added, “When Bill started, the lab was struggling, and the relationship between SLAC, Stanford and our sponsors in Washington was rocky at best. Now, 12 years later, SLAC is one of the leading labs in the complex, and Stanford is viewed as one of the best, most engaged contractors.”

Kao echoed the sentiment.

“Bill’s unique combination of national lab, DOE and Stanford expertise, his advocacy and his good counsel have been invaluable to me and to the lab,” Kao said. “His tireless work over the past decade has strengthened our efforts as we continue to evolve and expand the impact of discoveries underway here.”

Part of the success of the laboratory also can be attributed to a partnership agreement Stanford, SLAC and DOE signed in 2009, Madia said. The agreement promised openness, transparency and trust. Those principles, he said, created a firm foundation for change and have since been emulated at other facilities.

“It’s difficult to single out an individual for a team’s success, but much as It’s a Wonderful Life would not be the movie we know without Jimmy Stewart, SLAC would not be the place it is without Bill Madia,” said Paul Golan, DOE’s site office manager for the Bay Area site office. “Bill’s impact and contributions will define SLAC’s future for the next 50 years.”

Linac Coherent Light Source

Madia cited SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) as one of the new SLAC facilities that is “generating unprecedented science” and giving the laboratory a new, world-renown reputation. The LCLS is a free-electron laser that first achieved lasing in April 2009. It is the most powerful X-ray source in the world and can render extremely detailed snapshots of atoms and molecules at work, providing scientists with previously unobtainable information.

“There are many other countries building similar science programs,” Madia said. “Ultra-fast X-ray sciences is one of the hottest areas of science today.”

During the years that Madia served as vice president, the SLAC campus has been physically renewed, especially with the construction both the DOE-funded Science and User Support building and the Arrillaga Science Center.

“Many thanks to John Arrillaga, who has played a key role in creating a vibrant, new SLAC campus,” Madia said.

Prior to coming to Stanford, Madia served as the director of two national laboratories: Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. His retirement from SLAC marks his 50th year working in the DOE complex, where he was awarded the Secretary of Energy’s Gold Award, DOE’s Distinguished Associate Award and was named Laboratory Director of the Year in 1999.

Madia also held the position of executive vice president for laboratory operations at Battelle, an international science and technology firm that develops and commercializes technology and manages laboratory for both industrial and government clients. Before earning his PhD in nuclear chemistry from Virginia Tech, Madia served in the U.S. Army, conducting research for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A recognized leader in research, development and deployment of energy systems, Madia lent his expertise to such daunting projects as DOE’s Blue Ribbon Panel on the decontamination and decommissioning of the damaged Three Mile Island nuclear reactor. He also provided technical support to the Chernobyl reactor stabilization and clean-up efforts, as well as for the Fukushima reactor accident. He has served on various energy task forces at the Hoover Institution that are seeking solutions to climate change challenges.

For the past several years, Madia has focused his consulting assignments on executive coaching of research and development leaders and will continue that work after retirement.

Madia earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). The university recently announced that its Department of Chemistry would be named for Madia and his wife, Audrey. The Madias, who met at IUP, have been recipients of numerous university awards, including Volunteer of the Year in 2012. In 1988, William Madia was awarded IUP’s Distinguished Alumni Award.