Dr. Martha J. Kanter, executive director of the College Promise Campaign and Senior Fellow at the Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy, will deliver the keynote address at West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Commencement ceremony, scheduled for Saturday, May 5 at 10 a.m. in the John D. Rockefeller IV Physical Education Building. She is also the recipient of WVWC’s Doctor of Humane Letters.
Dr. Kanter is the Executive Director of the College Promise Campaign and Senior Fellow at the Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy at New York University. She joined the College Promise Campaign after nearly five years as the U.S. Under Secretary of Education, a position to which she was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009.
Dr. Kanter, who assumed the role from her position as chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, is the first community college leader to serve in the Under Secretary position. In her first two years as Under Secretary, the successful implementation of the Direct Student Loan program resulted in a 50-percent increase in college enrollment, growing from 6 to 9 million students today who are Pell Grant recipients.
During her tenure as Chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the nation, she served more than 45,000 students. In 1977, after serving as an alternative high school teacher in Massachusetts and New York, she established the first program for students with learning disabilities at San Jose City College, CA. She then served as a director, dean, and subsequently vice chancellor for policy and research for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office in Sacramento. In 1990, she returned to San Jose City College as Vice President of Instruction and Student Services until she was named President of De Anza College in 1993, serving in this position for a decade until her appointment as chancellor.
A celebrated scholar in her field, Dr. Kanter has been recognized for her work numerous times, including being named Woman of the Year by the 24th Assembly District, Woman of Achievement by San Jose Mercury News and the Women’s Fund, and Woman of the Year for Santa Clara County by the American Association of University Women. She has received the Excellence in Education award, was honored for diversity and community leadership by the Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women, and honored with the John W. Gardner Leadership Award, among numerous others. In 2011, Dr. Kanter was appointed to the U.S. National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a federal advisory committee to the Department of State that supports worldwide humanitarian development and values by coordinating efforts and delivering expert advice on issues of education, science, communications and culture.
Dr. Kanter holds a doctorate in organization and leadership from the University of San Francisco, a master’s degree in education with a concentration in clinical psychology and public practice from Harvard University, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Brandeis University. She currently serves as Vice President of the Chief Executive Officer Board of the Community College League of California (CCLC) and as Visiting Professor of Higher Education at New York University.