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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Engineer Clifford Retires After 50+ Years at NIH

At the podium, Clifford holds up clipping of the want ad he answered to work at NIH.

F. Anthony “Tony” Clifford displays want ad that led to more than 50 years of federal service.

Photo: Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

NIH is losing a major player in the development of its built environment. F. Anthony “Tony” Clifford has been chief engineer in the Office of Research Facilities since 2003. With more than 50 years of facility leadership experience here, he advanced NIH's mission by working to ensure that its buildings and facilities created a world-class environment for conducting biomedical research. 

Clifford has been involved in all aspects of NIH buildings and facilities master planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance since his arrival in 1969. This includes more than 20 million square feet of biomedical research laboratories, a hospital, animal-holding areas, utility plants and related administrative facilities on the NIH campuses.

He joined NIH as engineer-in-charge of NIH’s first bio-hazard containment facility. As research programs became more dependent on unique facilities, his professional career also grew as he assumed increasingly responsible leadership positions including chief of the Design Project Management Office, head of the Design and Construction Branch, deputy director and then director of the Division of Engineering Services. 

By establishing strong partnerships with NIH leadership and with support from Congress, Clifford’s comprehensive NIH Facility Revitalization Program was instrumental in significantly increasing the NIH buildings and facilities appropriation over a 10-year period. This enabled NIH to address aging physical plants and support emerging biomedical technologies and changing research priorities that resulted in a 45 percent increase of the NIH Bethesda real property.

Clifford stands smiling with Tabak

At a retirement ceremony in Wilson Hall, Clifford was celebrated by NIH leadership, including Dr. Lawrence Tabak, NIH principal deputy director.

Photo: Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

At a retirement ceremony May 20 in Wilson Hall, Clifford was celebrated by NIH leadership—including Dr. Lawrence Tabak, NIH principal deputy director—ORF staff, family and friends. Throughout his career, he has been an advocate for employee development and enrichment through mentorship and developmental training. In recognition of this, ORF Director Dan Wheeland is restarting the ORF apprenticeship program and renaming it in Clifford’s honor.

“For half a century, Tony Clifford has devoted himself to supporting the NIH mission. His professionalism and commitment to the NIH mission have been inspiring. It has been a distinct honor to have served with him,” Wheeland said. 

Dr. Alfred Johnson, NIH deputy director for management, conferred on Clifford the title “chief engineer emeritus,” the first emeritus title given to an engineer at NIH. Representing Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s office, Karen Hendricks presented Clifford with a copy of the Congressional Record that includes Van Hollen’s tribute to him on the house floor for his 50 years of service to NIH and its surrounding communities. Al Hinton, chief of the NIH Police, presented Clifford with a plaque designating him as an honorary police officer.

“In an effort to capture his 50-plus years of history as an engineer at the NIH, I had the opportunity to share Tony’s office with him for his last 3 months as he transitioned to retirement,” said Lemuel Canady, ORF’s new chief engineer. “Tony has many great stories of the NIH that he willingly shares. I have had the opportunity to hear these stories many times. The more I heard the stories, the more leadership principles emerged, such as humility, integrity, family, compassion, civility, duty and perseverance and honor. I benefited from these stories and learned their lessons and I am honored and prepared to continue the legacy.”

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