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WWSC 2019 Speaker biographies

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Arne Duncan
Former United States Secretary of Education

Arne Duncan was U.S. Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2015. He grew up in Hyde Park, Chicago, and attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. Duncan's mother ran a tutoring program, and his father was a professor at the University of Chicago.

After graduating with a sociology degree from Harvard in 1987 – where he co-captained the basketball team – Duncan spent four years playing professional basketball in Australia. He returned to Chicago after his stint as a pro athlete and helped his sister run the Ariel Education Initiative, a mentoring and tutoring program.

In 1998, Duncan was hired to run Chicago's magnet schools program, and three years later, he was tapped by Mayor Richard Daley to be CEO of Chicago Public Schools – the third-largest district in the country. He won praise for uniting the city’s education stakeholders behind an agenda that included opening 100 new schools; expanding after-school, summer learning, early childhood, and college access programs; and building public-private partnerships around a variety of education initiatives.

During his tenure as U.S. Secretary of Education, he oversaw education spending under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including the Investing in Innovation Fund, which was the source of the initial funding for New Tech Schools in South Carolina.

Currently a managing partner at Emerson Collective, Duncan is on a mission to create job and life opportunities for disconnected youth between the ages of 17 and 24 in Chicago through partnerships with local business leaders, community organizers, and nonprofit groups.

Richard W. Riley
Former South Carolina Governor and United States Secretary of Education

Often referred to as “one of the great statesmen of education in the century,” Riley has worked throughout his lifetime to bring significant, widespread change to education in South Carolina and the United States. In 2009, he was named one of the top ten cabinet members of the 20th century by Time magazine, and he was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in 2010.

Riley, for whom the Riley Institute at Furman is named, is the former U. S. Secretary of Education (1993–2001) and former two-term governor of South Carolina (1979–1987). He is now senior partner in the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough and its affiliate, EducationCounsel. He works on complex business, governance, financial, legal, education, government process and advocacy matters for local, state, national, and international clients. With the full support of the firm, Riley remains an ambassador for improving education in the United States and abroad.

He serves as Advisory Board chair of the Richard W. Riley Institute of Government, Politics and Public Leadership. Riley has been named distinguished professor at the University of South Carolina, and the College of Education at Winthrop University bears his name, as does the College of Education and Leadership at Walden University.

Riley earned his bachelor’s degree, cum laude, in political science from Furman in 1954 and received a JD from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1959. He is the recipient of numerous education and other public service awards, including Leadership South Carolina’s inaugural Dick and Tunky Riley Legacy of Leadership Award, and of honorary degrees from universities and colleges in the United States and abroad.