Federal Reserve Governor Roger Ferguson, who played a key role in shepherding the nation's financial system through the 2001 terror attacks, is leaving the central bank near the end of April.

Currently vice chairman, Ferguson, 54, has been with the Fed since 1997. He was first appointed to his Fed post by President Bill Clinton and then re-appointed by President Bush.

Ferguson's resignation will take effect on April 28, the Fed said in a statement.

The opening will give President Bush another chance to further his imprint on the central bank. Bush picked the Fed's new chairman, Ben Bernanke as well as two other new members-- Randall Kroszner and Kevin Warsh.

In his resignation letter to Bush, Ferguson said that although his time at the Fed has been rewarding and stimulating, "it is now time for me to pursue other professional opportunities." He did not specify what his next career move might entail.

New Fed chief, Bernanke, who took the helm on Feb. 1 after Alan Greenspan retired, praised Ferguson's contributions at the central bank.

"He led the Fed's first response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was a strong advocate for increased transparency of monetary policy and ably represented the Federal Reserve in important international fora," Bernanke said. " I value his friendship and counsel greatly and wish him all the best in his new endeavors."

At one point early on, Ferguson had been mentioned as a possible contender to replace Greenspan, who retired on Jan. 31.

Before joining the Fed, Ferguson was a partner at McKinsey & Co., an international management consulting firm. Prior to that, he was an attorney at the New York City office of Davis, Polk & Wardwell.