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‘A remarkable legacy of leadership’: SEF President Pierce applauds Dick Riley

Richard W. Riley, second from left, at book launch.

Last updated March 20, 2023

By Tina Underwood

Following a recent 90th birthday celebration for former South Carolina Governor Dick Riley, Raymond C. Pierce, president and CEO of the Southern Education Foundation, reflected on Riley’s legacy.

In an article appearing in Forbes (subscription required) and on, Pierce said polarizing attacks on public schools have “become an incredible distraction from far more meaningful conversations and efforts to improve public education for our students most in need.”

“For education leaders like Dick Riley,” who served as U.S. education secretary under Bill Clinton, Pierce wrote, “it was understood that the nation required specific policies and strategies to alleviate the continuing inequities in our society and upgrade the public education system. The goal was to truly prepare all young people for full participation as citizens of our great country.”

Pierce earned a bachelor’s in English from Syracuse University, where he also received an officer’s commission in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, and a master’s from the Duke University Divinity School.

Sec. Riley, namesake and chief inspiration officer of The Riley Institute at Furman University, earned his bachelor’s in political science from Furman in 1954 and received a J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1959. He is senior partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough and its affiliate, EducationCounsel, with offices in the Carolinas, Georgia, Boston, Chicago, Tallahassee, and Washington, D.C.

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