Senator Claiborne deBorda Pell served as a U.S. Senator from Rhode Island from 1961 to 1997 and was perhaps best known nationally for the college grant program that bears his name. He focused heavily on education, the arts and humanities, and foreign affairs during his 36 years in the Senate. During the latter part of his Senate career, he served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Throughout his career, he took a leading role in eliminating financial barriers to higher education. His legislation created the Basic Educational Opportunity Grants which Congress named the “Pell Grants” in 1980.
After serving in the Coast Guard during World War II, Pell participated in the San Francisco Conference that created the United Nations. He then served seven years as a State Department official and Foreign Service Officer, the only member of the Senate to do so.
Pell was a member of the U.S. Capital Preservation Commission and an honorary vice-president of the American Bible Society. He was a trustee emeritus of Brown University and a member of the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Naval Academy and Coast Guard Academy.
Pell authored, “Power and Policy and Megalopolis Unbound” and co-authored “Challenge of the Seven Seas.”
A graduate of St. George’s School in Middletown where he was an honorary trustee, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a master’s degree from Columbia University. Over the years, he received 46 honorary doctorates.
Pell passed away on Jan. 1, 2009.