Graduate Students

Walden U. Names a College After a Former Secretary of Education

January 23, 2008

The all-online Walden University is naming its college of education after a former U.S. secretary of education.

The college, which with 15,000 master’s and doctoral students claims to be the largest online school of education in the country, will be called the Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership. Mr. Riley, a former governor of South Carolina, was the education secretary under President Bill Clinton.

Walden is an arm of Laureate Inc., a Baltimore-based higher-education company.

The arrangement involves neither a gift from Mr. Riley, as nonprofit colleges commonly honor donors, nor a payment to Mr. Riley.

In an announcement this week, Walden said the naming was a way to pay tribute to Mr. Riley’s career as “a leading advocate in advancing education as a national priority.”

Mr. Riley, who was the longest-serving secretary of education, is also scheduled to deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree at Walden’s winter graduation, on February 2.

Whether the association with Mr. Riley will help burnish the college’s reputation remains to be seen, but Walden’s president, Jonathan A. Kaplan, says the college wouldn’t have won Mr. Riley’s endorsement had it not already been well established.

“Walden University has a very strong reputation in teacher education, and that is one of the reasons that Secretary Riley is so pleased to become formally associated with Walden,” said Mr. Kaplan, in an e-mail message today. “That strong reputation will now only be enhanced by Walden’s close ties with Secretary Riley, especially given his commitment to students, his legacy of improving access to higher education, and his focus on diversity in education.”

Meanwhile, prospective students may encounter a challenge in figuring out which Riley college of education they want to attend — Walden’s or the Riley School of Education at Winthrop University. Winthrop named its college of education for Mr. Riley in 2000. —Goldie Blumenstyk