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As director of the Treasury Department's Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Tom Ferguson '72 is making his mark on the next generation of U.S. paper currency. With improved security features to deter counterfeiting, the federal note design, called NexGen, affects the $100, $50, and $20 bills. Circulation of the NexGen series is planned for fall 2003 with the introduction of the redesigned $20 note, with the $100 and $50 notes following in 12 to 18 months.

Having led the New Currency Design Task Force that recommended the security features incorporated in the Series 1996 currency, Ferguson keeps his hand in the redesign process. “It's the one piece of work that I always drag along with me,” he says. “I enjoy having somewhat of a hand in it. When you're putting out billions and billions of currency notes, it's a little fun to do it differently and figure out ways to make it more secure.”

Ferguson expects that the public will adjust more smoothly to this redesign than it did to the major visual change implemented in 1996. “It's still the traditional U.S. note, but with the introduction of additional color,” he explains. “It's a fairly major visual transition, but one that people will enjoy.”

Smoothing the way will be a large public education campaign that will precede release of the $20 bill. “It's obviously not to sell the product, because people don't have a choice,” says Ferguson. “It will show people how to recognize, quickly authenticate, and feel comfortable with the note. People should be able to not worry about counterfeiting, and maintain an instantaneous, subliminal trust in their currency.”

Director of BEP since December 1998, Ferguson has been with the bureau for more than 24 years. He served as deputy director since November 1997 and acting director since January 1998. During his tenure as director of the bureau's Securities Technology Institute, he oversaw the counterfeit deterrence program and the new currency design process.

An economics and business graduate, Ferguson earned a master's in public administration from the University of Southern California. “The thinking skills, and the social and communication skills from Lafayette – just being able to reason and effectively communicate – have really been key to advancing in a bureaucratic setting where you have to demonstrate something that a lot of people can recognize and remember,” he says.

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles