A second Stillman, he of HHS, signs off
- By Thomas R. Temin
- May 10, 1999
Described as a man of integrity and commitment to public serviceand a
stickler for detailNeil Stillman retired this month as deputy assistant secretary
for IRM at the Health and Human Services Department amid accolades from friends and
He worked 34 years for the federal government, including stints with the Air Force and
Defense Intelligence Agency.
At a luncheon at Fort McNair in Washington, colleagues praised Stillmans career
Betty James Duke, deputy assistant secretary for administration at the Social Security
Administration, called Stillman the best-rganized guy Ive ever known. You
never saw him without his time planner. That meant, she said, he never forgot an
assignment or order he had given and was relentless in following up.
Duke praised what she called Stillmans splendid commitment to public service and
deemed him a national treasure.
Current and retired officials pointed out some of Stillmans professional
accomplishments. Renato DiPentima, former systems chief at SSA and now an executive at SRA
International Inc. of Arlington, Va., noted Stillmans role in turning around
information technology at SSA.
Frank McDonough, deputy assistant administrator for intergovernmental solutions at the
General Services Administration, recalled that Stillman wrote the first plan to recompete
the then-aging FTS contract back when rotary phones were still found on many government
He also noted Stillmans long involvement in the Federation of Government
Information Processing Councils, of which he was president until last July. Stillman was
also active in the Chief Information Officers Council, where he vigorously championed
adoption of a governmentwide standard IT architecture.
Stillmans most recent boss, assistant secretary for administration John Callahan,
read a letter from HHS Secretary Donna Shalala praising Stillman for advocating
governmentwide e-mail, readying the department to use the recently awarded FTS 2001
contracts and overseeing HHS program to prepare for 2000.
Colleagues also warmly poked fun at Stillman, known for his three-piece suits and his
determined pursuit of golf.
You got this job so HHS would be immune from Rona, said Mike Carleton,
deputy director of the office of IRM, referring to Stillmans wife.
Rona Stillman recently retired as chief scientist for computers and telecommunications
in the General Accounting Offices Accounting and Information Management Division.
She is famous for her laserlike critiques of agency IT shortcomings [GCN, May 3, Page 62].
Its thrilling to pull even a small transgression with someone so
straitlaced and by-the-book, Carleton said, threatening to violate government
records regulations by publicizing the one memo Neil would most regret going into
the National Archives. Then he handed Stillman a glass jar stuffed with shredded
Carleton described Stillman as an unflappable boss who taught me to know which
conflicts to win, which to mediate and which to stay out of.
McDonough referred to Rona and Neil Stillmans well-known devotion to one another.
They were high school sweethearts, got their Ph.D.s together and retire
together, he said. He described how they would often sit together in the front row
at various conferences they attended. They were the closest couple in the federal IT
Stillman, after briefly commenting on his own career and thanking his HHS colleagues,
devoted most of his remarks to his wife.
We think alike; we finish each others sentences, and we even complete each
others thoughts, he said. He described the time, early in their careers, when
they had side-by-side desks for seven years at the Air Development Center at Rome Air
Force Base, N.Y.
We spent 24 hours a day together. We loved it then, have missed it since and are
looking forward to 24 hours together in retirement, he said.