Richard Riley

  • Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
  • Former Governor of South Carolina

After decades in government on the state and national level, Richard Riley has emerged as a leading voice for education reform and policy who has worked tirelessly for the American education system.


Richard  Riley headshot
Past Hosts Include:
  • The Dowmel Foundation
Rave Reviews About Richard Riley as a Speaker
On behalf of the Dowmel Board and myself, I want to express how pleased we were to have had the opportunity to hear you speak at Monument Mountain Regional High School...As you can tell, our community was looking forward to your presentation. The discussion of your views about community and education provided insights that have not been explored by previous speakers. All aspects of the program--the press conference, the lecture, and finally the Arts & Ideas Forum went extremely well. As has been the case in the recent past, some of the students have made career choices based on their interaction with charismatic speakers such as you.

Talks & Conversations with Richard Riley

The National Crusade for Excellence in Education


Richard W. Riley is currently a senior partner in the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, a distinguished professor and advisory board chair of the Richard W. Riley Institute of Government Politics and Public Leadership at Furman University, a distinguished professor at the University of South Carolina, and distinguished senior fellow at NAFSA Association of International Educators. He is also former U.S. Secretary of Education and former governor of South Carolina.

As the U.S. Secretary of Education, he launched historic initiatives to raise academic standards, improve instruction for the poor and disadvantaged, expand grant and loan programs, prepare young people for the world of work, and improve teaching. Sec. Riley also created the Partnership for Family Involvement in Education, which today includes more than 8,000 groups.

During his second term, Sec. Riley helped win a historic FCC ruling to give schools and libraries discounts for internet access and telecommunications services (the E-rate) and major improvements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. He gained increased federal support to help all children master the basics of reading and math, make schools safer, reduce class size in grades 1-3 by hiring 100,000 quality teachers, modernize and build schools to meet record-breaking student enrollments, help students learn to use computers, expand after-school programs, foster college preparation and access for underprivileged students, make postsecondary education more affordable, and promote lifelong learning.

Sec. Riley also focused national attention on the need for people of all ages in America to learn more than one language and for increased international education exchanges in the United States and abroad in order to take advantage of the opportunities presented in the global society of the twenty-first century.

Prior to that position, he was governor of South Carolina where the South Carolina Constitution was amended so that he could run for a second term. He was also a state representative and state senator, and an officer in the U.S. Navy. Sec. Riley graduated from Furman University and holds a law degree from the University of South Carolina. The Christian Science Monitor said that many Americans regard Sec. Riley as “one of the great statesman of education in this century,” and David Broder of the Washington Post called him one of the “most decent and honorable people in public life.”