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The Secretaries and Their Backgrounds

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Margaret Spellings would bring a variety of experiences to the post of U.S. secretary of education, but being an educator isn’t one of them. Likewise, a background on the front lines of education hasn’t been a prerequisite for all of her predecessors. Here are background highlights of the seven who have served:

Clockwise from top, William J. Bennett, Lamar Alexander, Richard W. Riley, Rod Paige, and Lauro F. Cavazos at a Duke University meerting.
Clockwise from top, William J. Bennett, Lamar Alexander, Richard W. Riley, Rod Paige, and Lauro F. Cavazos at a Duke University meerting.
—Chris Hildreth/Duke University

Roderick R. Paige, 2001-present, nominated by President George W. Bush. Coached football at several colleges; professor and dean at Texas Southern University’s college of education; superintendent, Houston Independent School District.

Richard W. Riley, 1993-2001, nominated by President Clinton. Governor of South Carolina for two terms; state representative and state senator.

Lamar Alexander, 1991-93, nominated by President George H.W. Bush. Governor of Tennessee for two terms; president, University of Tennessee.

Lauro F. Cavazos, 1988-91, nominated by President Reagan; retained by the first President Bush. Dean, Tufts University Medical School; president, Texas Tech University.

William J. Bennett, 1985-88, nominated by President Reagan. Professor and administrator, Boston University; chairman, Naitonal Endowment for the Humanities.

Terrel H. Bell, 1981-85, nominated by President Reagan. District superintendent; Utah state superintendent; U.S. commissioner of education under President Ford.

Shirley M. Hufstedler, 1979-81, nominated by President Carter. Justice, California Court of Appeals; judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

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