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Long Lake woman appointed to head federal nuclear program

November 6, 2010
By JESSICA COLLIER, Enterprise Staff Writer

A Long Lake woman has been named deputy administrator for federal defense nuclear nonproliferation programs.

Anne M. Harrington was born at Mercy General Hospital in Tupper Lake, grew up in Long Lake and got her bachelor's degree at St. Lawrence University. She has focused on nuclear nonproliferation since 1991.

She will manage the National Nuclear Security Administration's $2.7 billion nuclear proliferation program, which works in more than 100 countries to secure vulnerable nuclear material, stop nuclear smuggling and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Article Photos

NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino swears in Anne Harrington, who grew up in Long Lake, at the end of October.
(Photo provided)

She was sworn in last week by NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino.

"Anne Harrington brings more than two decades of nonproliferation and threat reduction experience to this position and is the perfect choice to lead the world's largest nonproliferation program," D'Agostino said in a press release. "Her experience in government, nonprofit and private sectors both domestically and internationally are tremendous assets in helping to implement the unprecedented nuclear security agenda President Obama outlined in his 2009 speech in Prague."

In that speech, Obama laid out a vision of a world without nuclear weapons, saying it can only be achieved with patience, persistence and cooperation between nations.

Harrington said she doesn't administer programs that make big headlines regularly.

"The whole idea is what we do should be done so that people don't have to wake up in the morning and worry about whether there's a cargo ship coming through the St. Lawrence Seaway with something that's going to explode," Harrington said. "Those are the things we do on a day-to-day basis in 120 countries in the world for the sole purpose of making sure those things never happen here."

Harrington's family has lived in the Tupper Lake and Long Lake areas for several generations. Her mother, Margaret Harrington LaRocque, 86, still lives in Long Lake. Harrington calls her a "die-hard Adirondacker."

Her father, George Harrington, died when she was in college. He is still well respected in the Adirondacks as a businessman and a person, and that had a big impression on her growing up.

Harrington said she comes up to visit as often as she can, but it's gotten difficult since she's gotten busier. She was in town this summer and tries to visit often over the holidays. She said her children, Meredith and Owen Lynch, who are 24 and 20 respectively, love it in Long Lake.

"I just think growing up there was one of the most magical things that could happen to your life," Harrington said. "There were a lot of things that I didn't have, but there was just so much that we got from living in that beautiful environment. It affects you for your whole life and your outlook on things."

Coming from a small town where everyone helps everyone else, Harrington said she learned a strong sense of community and teamwork.

"Especially that sense of inclusiveness is something that I try to carry every day into my work," Harrington said.

Harrington studied in a variety of areas when she was getting her Bachelor of Arts degree at SLU.

"I had a lot of different experiences and exposures," Harrington said. "That, for me, is one of the great values of liberal arts education.

"I draw every day on what I learned while I was at St. Lawrence. It was a great foundation for my education."

She went on to earn master's degrees from the University of Michigan and the National Defense University National War College.

In August 1991, Harrington went with her family to Russia to work in the U.S. embassy there as an analyst in the science and technology department, in the midst of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

"We lived through that truly amazing period of history," Harrington said. "We watched the Soviet Union literally collapse around us."

She said one of the things that quickly became evident to both her and the Russians was that the end of the Soviet Union didn't mean the end of threat. She was quickly drawn into working on a set of programs that worked to stabilize nuclear weapon facilities in Russia, and she has been involved in that type of work ever since.

Harrington said kids who grow up in small Adirondack towns shouldn't let anything hold them back.

"You should never let your environment limit what you dream," Harrington said. "There's no reason why coming from a small town should disadvantage you in any way from what you aspire to achieve in your life."

Even though schools may have fewer resources, course choices and extracurricular activities, the small-town environment teaches other important lessons, "not the least of which is values," Harrington said.

"What you carry into your life from that kind of environment is really important."

Her experience is proof that people from rural areas can still make a big impact on the world.

"Here I am, this small-town kid from Long Lake, New York, and somehow I've arrived at a position where the president of the United States has asked me to lead the largest nonproliferation program in the world," Harrington said. "I pinch myself every day. It's humbling."

Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 25 or jcollier@adirondack



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