Gaston CapertonThe information in this biography was supplied by the subject.On July 1, 1999, Gaston Caperton became the eighth president of the College Board, the 100-year-old nonprofit organization that works to help students make the transition from high school to college.
Best known for the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program, the College Board is a national membership organization of more than 3,900 schools, colleges, and other educational institutions.
Since coming to the Board, Governor Caperton has moved quickly to launch a sweeping series of initiatives, including organizational restructuring and strengthening core programs. Deeply concerned about the persistent problem of unequal educational opportunity, Governor Caperton has mounted a national effort to encourage and inspire more young people, particularly those least advantaged, to make college a part of their future. He has also vigorously campaigned to bring the Advanced Placement Program, as well as the College Board System of programs and services, to every school and system in the country. His efforts recently prompted USA Today to call him an "education crusader" and name him one of the most influential people in America in its feature, "People to Watch: 2001."
In another ambitious effort to increase college opportunity, Governor Caperton has formed an Internet subsidiary, collegeboard.com, to dramatically expand the resources available to parents and students as they plan for college. The New York Times called the initiative "a natural brainchild for Gaston Caperton, the former governor of West Virginia, whose political legacy was bringing computers to his state's impoverished schools."
In 1996, Governor Caperton received the Computerworld Smithsonian Award for West Virginia's advances in education technology. The award's sponsors called him a "visionary" who "fundamentally changed the education system in America" by using technological innovations. In January 1997, West Virginia received national acclaim for the use of technology in education as a result of a detailed study of the nation's education system by Education Week.
Governor Caperton served two highly successful terms in West Virginia, from 1988-96. As the state's thirty-first governor, he took West Virginia from the brink of bankruptcy with more than $500 million in debts to a state boasting a $100 million surplus. The sound financial management approach he initiated led Financial World magazine to call the Mountain State the most improved in the nation.
Of particular concern to Governor Caperton was improving West Virginia's education system. His comprehensive plan initially emphasized the use of computers and technology in West Virginia public schools, beginning with kindergarten through sixth grade, then expanding later to include grades 7-12. His aggressive school building program resulted in $800 million in investments for 58 new schools and 780 school renovations that benefited two-thirds of West Virginia's students. Governor Caperton raised teachers' salaries from forty-ninth to thirty-first in the nation and trained more than 19,000 -educators through a statewide Center for Professional Development.
Governor Caperton realized, however, that West Virginia's economic success also depended on modern roads and infrastructure, secure prisons and jails, a clean and respected environment, better health care, and responsible government management. In every area, West Virginia improved immeasurably during his eight-year tenure and the state's economy followed. West Virginia's unemployment rate dropped from 9.8 percent when Governor Caperton took office to a low of 6.2 percent. This was accomplished by creating more than 86,000 new jobs.
Among Governor Caperton's most successful accomplishments was Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia, a unique facility that showcases West Virginia's best products and organizes the state's "cottage industry" as never before. Tamarack is the center of an integrated distribution and marketing network for products created by more than 1,200 West Virginia artists.
Governor Caperton came to the College Board from Columbia University, where he founded, ran, and taught in the Institute on Education and Government. Prior to his tenure at Columbia, he taught at Harvard University in the spring of 1997 as a fellow at the John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics.
The 1996 chair of the Democratic Governors' Association, he served on the National Governors' Association executive committee and was a member of the Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee on U.S. Trade. He also was chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, Southern Regional Education Board, and the Southern Growth Policy Board.
Governor Caperton has received numerous state and national awards and special recognition, including six honorary doctoral degrees.
Prior to his terms as governor, Gaston Caperton was a highly successful businessman in his home state. After graduating from the University of North Carolina, he began his career in a small insurance agency in Charleston, West Virginia. He soon became the company's principal owner and, through his leadership, it became the tenth-largest privately owned insurance brokerage firm in the nation. He also owned a bank and mortgage banking company and was active in many community projects.