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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Claiborne Pell has died at 90

Long-term Rhode Island Senator was the creator of the Pell Grant:

Claiborne Pell, who was the driving force behind a grant program that has helped tens of millions of Americans attend college, died Thursday after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. The former Senator was 90 years old. He serve the people of the state of Rhode Island from 1960 through 1997, retiring two years after disclosing his illness.

Pell sponsored legislation creating the Basic Educational Opportunity Grants, which passed in 1972 and provided direct aid to college students. The awards were renamed "Pell Grants" in 1980. By the time Pell retired, they had aided more than 54 million low- and middle-income Americans.

"He believed strongly that a good education could open infinite doors of opportunity, and he has transformed the lives of millions of young people who have been able to go to college because of the grant that rightly bears his name," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

Thomas Hughes, Pell's chief of staff from 1975 until his retirement, said Pell believed financial aid should be given directly to students rather than distributed by colleges and universities.

"He always had this view that the federal government should help young people be able to have an education beyond high school," Hughes said.

This blogger was a recipient of one of Senator Pell's grants, which allowed me to attend Ivy Tech in the early 1980's. I salute him for his work on behalf of making higher education possible for all and personally thank him for his influence on my life. Rest in peace, sir.

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