Thomas R. Wolanin

April 6, 2017

Thomas R. Wolanin, a good friend of first-generation students — and of TRIO — died peacefully Sunday, April 2, 2017, after a long battle with cancer. After serving as a faculty member at Oberlin College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wolanin served for nearly two decades as a staff member in the U.S. Congress, where he worked tirelessly to expand student financial assistance and TRIO services. As the staff director for the House Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education chaired by Rep. William D. Ford (D-MI), Wolanin worked with unusual diligence to assure that Members of Congress were well informed about the impact of their decisions on ordinary Americans and that the public had input into policy making.

Even before COE was formally established, Wolanin sought input on the 1980 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act from the organized TRIO associations. As a result, the low-income, first-generation eligibility criteria for TRIO were formally adopted into law during that reauthorization. He later managed the reauthorizations of the Higher Education Act in 1986 (which established the McNair program) and 1992. Wolanin left Congress to become Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs in the U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Richard Riley. After leaving the Department, he travelled widely, taught, and wrote extensively on education and public policy. Dr. Wolanin graduated magna cum laude from Oberlin College in 1965 and received a Ph.D in political science from Harvard in 1972. He was the first in his family to attend college.

To honor Tom's memory, COE, with the support of his family, has established the Thomas R. Wolanin Congressional Internship. Donations to the program may be made by clicking here.