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NEA Remembers Claiborne Pell

“A pioneer in the fight for college access and affordability”

WASHINGTON - January 04, 2009 -

The National Education Association mourns the passing of Claiborne Pell, a leading voice on education and labor issues and the author of a landmark student-aid program during his 36 years in the U.S. Senate.

His belief in the value of education led Sen. Pell to sponsor legislation that provided direct financial aid to college students.

The Basic Educational Opportunity Grants, which passed in 1972, were later renamed “Pell Grants.” By the time he retired from the Senate in 1996, the program had assisted more than 54 million low- and middle-income Americans in their pursuit of a college degree.

In 1990, Sen. Pell was the recipient of NEA’s highest honor, the Friend of Education Award, for his significant contributions to the improvement of American public education.

The following can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

“Claiborne Pell was an ardent supporter of public education and a pioneer in the fight for college access and affordability. Sen. Pell spearheaded a movement to make college more accessible to all students and passionately believed that a college education should never be an impossible dream in America. During his long and productive career in the U.S. Senate, he was a committed friend to students and educators.

“Claiborne Pell’s achievements are a testament to his deep and enduring commitment to keep the door of opportunity open for every student with talent, determination and ambition who is willing to work hard. Millions of students today have achieved their educational and professional goals due to his vision and leadership. Sen. Pell’s legacy will guide us as we continue to work to make college an affordable option for all students and unlock the doors to higher education for millions of young Americans.”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing 3.2  million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez
(202) 822-7823,