Acclaimed New York Times columnist picks UVA President Jim Ryan for Biden’s education secretary

Jim Ryan_WVIR

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -President-elect Joe Biden is still formulating his cabinet, but an acclaimed columnist at the New York Times floated University of Virginia President Jim Ryan as his choice for secretary of education.

Nicholas Kristoff with the Times named Ryan as secretary of education and a UVA professor says he would be a strong choice.

“At this point right now, my personal opinion is that the country really needs someone with a strong moral compass, who is also brilliant at educational policy in that position and Jim Ryan would be that person," UVA School of Nursing Professor Kimberly D. Acquaviva said.

The current secretary of education, Betsy Devos, had a background in business, which marked a shift for the position, as the two people chosen under President Barack Obama had K-12 education experience.

Jim Ryan, who was on the UVA School of Law faculty for 15 years before becoming dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and then president of the University of Virginia, would mark another shift, one with a higher education background.

“So he has a real understanding of constitutional law, he’s argued before the Supreme Court. I mean, he understands the legal implications of education, but also how those, the legal aspects of education, actually structure opportunity for students,” Acquaviva said.

A friend who has run with Ryan for a decade says he has the professional and personal attributes to be effective.

“I know people who are whip smart, and I know people who are kind, and I know people who have a sense of humor, and I know people who can organize things. I don’t know many people who can do all of those things. Jim Ryan is one of those guys," Harry Landers said.

Despite the praise, both Landers and Acquaviva hope he stays in Charlottesville.

“I’d hate to see him go," Landers said.

“I wouldn’t want him to take the position because I think he is doing such an exceptional job leading UVA and will continue to do so if he chooses to stay here,”Acquaviva said.

In a statement to NBC29, Jim Ryan said: “I was surprised and flattered by the mention. But my focus has been and will continue to be leading the University of Virginia, a place that I love, as we navigate the pandemic and the many challenges it has created for our community."

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