Leon Panetta is the co-director of the Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy, based at California State University, Monterey Bay – a university he helped establish on the site of the former military base, Fort Ord. The Institute serves as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) study center for the advancement of bi-partisan public policy. In addition, he serves as Distinguished Scholar to the Chancellor of the California State University system, advising the Chancellor on national issues affecting higher education. In 1997, he was appointed Presidential Professor at Santa Clara University.
Panetta was a U.S. Representative from California’s 16th (now 17th) district from 1977 to 1993. As a House member, he was a key participant in the 1990 budget summit as well as every other summit during the 1980s. He left Congress in 1993, at the beginning of his ninth term, to become Director of the Office of Management and Budget for the incoming Clinton administration. In that position, he was instrumental in developing the 1993 budget package that is widely credited with a balanced federal budget and a budget surplus.
Panetta was appointed Chief of Staff to President Clinton on July 17, 1994, and served in that position until January 20, 1997.
Panetta has served as a leader in numerous community and public policy organizations throughout his career, ranging from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group established in 2006 to Chairman of the Pew Oceans Commission. He lectures nationally and internationally on the state of the economy, the federal budget and other issues facing our nation. His numerous awards and honors include, among others, the NEA Lincoln Award, the Peter Burnett Award for Distinguished Public Service, the John H. Chafee Coastal Stewardship Award, the Aquarium of the Pacific Ocean Conservation Award, 2006, and the Lifetime Achievement Award for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.
He is married to the former Sylvia Marie Varni, who administered his district offices during his service in Congress and continues as a partner in his many activities. They have three grown sons and five grandchildren.