After a decade at the helm of the University City Science Center, Stephen Tang is leaving his post as CEO and president to join OraSure Technologies, a Bethlehem, Pa.-based health science company.
He’s been on the company’s board since 2011, but his connection to OraSure is a longer story: As a grad student at Lehigh University in the early 1980s, he worked out of the institution’s Whitaker Lab, right next door to where part of OraSure’s original technology was developed.
“We’ve been in close proximity for a long time,” Tang, 57, said. His selection as chief exec is a full-circle moment: In 2004, Tang was actually in the running for the CEO role, but was bested by Douglas Michels, whose upcoming retirement made way for Tang’s naming.
“It’s interesting interplay between failure and redemption,” Tang said.
In this installment of our ongoing Exit Interview series, we ask Tang about third acts, missed ribbon-cuttings and the need to be less “self-critical as a community.”
Technical.ly Philly: Why does this make sense now, when you’re coming up on a decade as CEO?
Stephen Tang: I don’t know that there was consideration about the decade about the cutoff. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here, so there was nothing that compelled me. No “sell-by date.” It’s more about the succession plan OraSure was looking at. Also, I’m 57 years old and if there’s a third act in my professional life it has to be now.
TP: It’s the start of a big year for the Science Center. How do you feel about everything that’s going to be happening without you?
ST: I have enormous confidence that the managing team in place here will deliver. The reason for naming Curt Hess as interim CEO is that he’s been here for over 15 years and has great institutional knowledge. It would be great to be here when the new [3675 Market] building opens, but you don’t always get the luxury of great timing.
TP: What’s on your to-do list at OraSure?
ST: I’ll have to spend some time getting to know the team as boss. The most pressing issue is hiring the next CFO to replace Ronald Spair, who is also looking to retire sometime this year in a way that allows adequate transition time. That’s the big focus. There are also some aspects of updating our strategy.
TP: Will you remain connected to the tech scene here in Philly?
ST: My wife and I will remain in Greater Philly, and we’ll remain a vibrant part of the community. We’ll be vitally involved in the passions that we have, and that doesn’t stop because I leave the Science Center.
TP: What’s a challenge you’d put on the Science Center going forward?
ST: Over the past couple of years we’ve spoken about the pillars of not just innovation but access and inclusion. Because 3675 will be the physical manifestation of our connection to the neighborhoods, my hope is that we can be an inspiring place for entrepreneurs to participate and find their way into well paying jobs and participate. If we do that, we’ll begin to chip away at the disparity. I believe we’re ideally situated to make that happen.
TP: Any final message to the community?
ST: Greatness is there for the taking if we can get out of our own way. We’re much better off than where we were ten years ago but we’re incredibly self-critical as a community, and I’d love us to see the world being more about possibilities and abundance.
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