Campus News

President Mills: Pell's Program Helped Millions Attend College

Story posted January 17, 2009

Former Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell, best known as the sponsor of the Pell Grant, which provides financial aid funding to U.S. college students, died January 1, 2009, at the age of 90.

Sen. Pell, a Democrat, was Rhode Island's longest-serving senator, serving six terms from 1961 to 1997.

The January 16, 2009, edition of The Providence Journal includes a letter written by President Mills applauding Pell for his dedication toward advancing education for low- and middle-income Americans.

Below, President Mills' letter, as it appears in The Providence Journal:

Barry Mills: Pell's program helped millions attend college

I had the privilege of meeting Claiborne Pell — who passed away on New Year's Day — 40 years ago when I was a senior at Pilgrim High School in Warwick. I had received an award named in Senator Pellís honor, and he and his wife had come to offer their congratulations.

I remember the senator as a polite and distinguished gentleman, and I recall being truly impressed that he would take the time to honor me and to promote my education.

Of course, Claiborne Pell devoted much of his time in the Senate to advancing education for middle- and low-income Americans. Since 1972, the Pell Grant program has assisted more than 50 million of these students to attend college. I met Senator Pell that one time, but today, as president of Bowdoin College, I continue to see the results of his commitment to education through the lives of a significant number of young men and women who are able to attend our college only because of Pell grants and additional Bowdoin aid.

All Americans should be grateful to Claiborne Pell for the enduring legacy of financial assistance for students. As a new administration moves to Washington, we can best remember Senator Pell and honor his vision by renewing our national commitment to assisting all members of our society — regardless of income — who seek to improve their own lives and society through education.


Brunswick, Maine

The writer is president of Bowdoin College.

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