January 11, 2010

Rich Roca to step down this year as director of APL

Rich Roca, director of the Applied Physics Laboratory since January 2000, announced last week that he will step down from his position this year.

In an e-mail to staff, Roca explained that APL requires executives in a policy-making position to leave their posts when they reach a certain age, and that the time had come for him. “Beyond that, however,” he said, “every organization benefits from change in its leadership at reasonable intervals, and a decade is certainly a reasonable interval. Therefore, my tenure will come to a close sometime this summer when the board of managers appoints my replacement.”

Roca came to Johns Hopkins from AT&T Corp., where he had spent his entire professional life, most recently as the AT&T Labs vice president responsible for technical development of AT&T’s Internet-based services. Previously, Roca was with AT&T Business Communications Service, where he was general manager of the company’s communications business supporting civilian agencies of the federal government, such as cabinet departments, NASA and the Social Security Administration.

APL—a not-for-profit University Affiliated Research Center that performs research and development work on behalf of the Department of Defense, primarily the U.S. Navy, and NASA—has 4,500 employees, more than two-thirds of whom are engineers and scientists.

“Dr. Roca has been an exceptional leader of APL, focusing during his tenure on the Lab’s work in both national defense and scientific discovery as well as on the physical and human infrastructure that makes that work possible,” said Pamela Flaherty, chair of the university’s board of trustees, in an e-mail informing the Johns Hopkins community of Roca’s announcement.

“On his watch,” she said, “the Laboratory has further strengthened its position as a key contributor to national security. Its scientists and engineers have worked diligently and with great success to help protect the United States, its military men and women and its citizens against threats from sea, land and air; from outer space and cyberspace; and from sources conventional and nonconventional.

“He also has been an exceptional citizen of our university, promoting APL joint   ventures with other Johns Hopkins divisions in both research and teaching,” Flaherty said.

“APL—often working in collaboration with researchers elsewhere at Johns Hopkins and from around the world—has also made extraordinary contributions during Rich’s tenure to human knowledge about the universe we inhabit,” she continued. “In fact, we know already that the scientific contributions that are such an important part of Rich’s legacy at APL will continue for many years after his departure, as the Lab’s missions to Mercury and Pluto, its observations of the sun and many other initiatives continue to make discoveries.”

Referring to Roca’s announcement to APL staff, Flaherty said that “Rich, with characteristic modesty, gave them the credit for APL’s success over the past decade. But they know—as do I and as do so many of you who have worked with him—that APL’s achievements would not have been possible without his foresight and vision, his leadership and his integrity. Johns Hopkins owes Rich Roca a great deal.”

Roca indicated that he, in turn, owes Johns Hopkins a great deal.

“My affiliation with not only APL but also The Johns Hopkins University has been a capstone experience in my career,” he said in his letter to staff.

“I cannot begin to express how honored I have been to lead this organization over the past years,” he said. “You are a remarkable group of people, and you have made remarkable contributions to our nation’s most critical challenges. APL’s fingerprints are on critical contributions in missile defense, space defense and exploration, undersea warfare, strategic and conventional strike, cyber warfare, homeland protection and soldier protection,” he said. “Whether it be in discovery, application or analysis, you constantly strive to thoroughly understand the factors affecting your sponsors’ success and apply the highest degree of professionalism as trusted agents to influence their ultimate directions. I couldn’t be more proud of all of you.”

A search committee has been formed under the leadership of university trustee Stuart Janney, who is also chair of the APL board of managers.