Skip to Content
Texas State University
Texas State University

Richard W. Riley

Former Secretary of Education
Monday, November 6, 1995 · Evans Auditorium · 7:30 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Wilson Riley has been widely praised for his role in recent progress in American education. He was unanimously confirmed as secretary of education within days of President Clinton's inauguration in 1993. He was chosen for the post so that he could help work the same kind of education reform on a national scale that he had done as a two-time governor of South Carolina In his native state, he spearheaded a comprehensive and highly successful reform of the state's school system by bringing together a coalition of groups, including business people, educators and parents.

Riley, who was called "the quietest but among the most effective" Cabinet members, lived up to expectations. His early achievements in office include: the expansion and streamlining of the college loan program while eliminating government waste and saving taxpayers billions of dollars; the creation of laws to help local school districts ensure that children can learn in safety and security; enactment of programs that develop links between schools and the work place, so that America's students will be better prepared for jobs of the future or continuing their education; the establishment of challenging standards for learning that every child can reach; the redesign and improvement of the primary federal program for helping disadvantaged elementary and high school students; the Family Involvement Partnership for Learning, designed to get parents more involved in their children's education.

The secretary graduated cum laude from Furman University in 1954 and served two years as an officer on a minesweeper in the U.S. Navy. In 1959 Riley received a law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law and has served as legal counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Senate. He also served as a South Carolina state representative and state senator from 1963 to 1977. Riley was elected governor in 1978 and was re-elected in 1982, after the people of South Carolina voted to amend the state constitution to enable him to be the first person in modem state history to run for a second term. Riley is married to the former Ann Osteen Yarborough. They have four children and six grandchildren. 

—Adapted from the original event program distributed at Richard W. Riley's LBJ Distinguished Lecture

“Thirty years ago when Lyndon Johnson came to this campus to sign the Higher Education Act of 1965, he was using his time wisely to shape the future course of this nation.”

“Thirty years later we can surely say that Lyndon Johnson used his time wisely as president when he used his power to open the doors of higher education to many, many more Americans. This was the right decision for our country. We are a better country for it. Millions of Americans have, indeed, moved into the middle class because of it. Women and minorities have gained a strong foothold in higher education. Disabled Americans are no longer left in the darkness of ignorance. Our colleges and universities are the envy of the entire world. Yes, this was an important decision in 1965.”

“The American spirit of optimism — of moving forward into the future together — has always been linked to the advance of education — always.”

“Be part of this process of deciding what is important for America’s future. Let’s all provide leadership in the colleges and universities and schools of America to help bring America together to articulate a vision of America — a moral center — that is positive and inclusive. Do not cede free speech to those who are only fearful and angry, who reject the values of higher education that are so essential to the life of this democracy.”