Creator of Pell Grants Dead at Age 90

Clairborne Pell, a senator from Rhode Island and the creator of the Pell Grant has died after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 90.

His former assistant Jan Demers said that Pell died just after the New Year began at home in Newport, Rhode Island. In 1995 he revealed that he had Parkinson’s, leaving his office in January 1997 after six terms.

Pell always believed that his greatest achievement was the creation of the Pell Grant. In 1972 the grant was passed aiding college students directly. It was renamed the Pell Grant in 1980 from the orginal Basic Educational Opportunity Grants. Since its beginnings it has aided more than 54 million low- and middle-income Americans gain secondary education.

After graduating in 1945 from Princeton, Pell went into the Coast Guard serving during World War II. Following that time he served in foreign service for seven years. In 1960 he was first elected into the Senate. During his six terms he received an average of 64 percent of the votes from his fellow Rhode Islanders.

During the Vietnam War Pell was a staunch opposer.

When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in December 1994 he waited to disclose the information until the spring. He said that the disease had nothing to do with his retirement two years later.

“There is a natural time for all life’s adventures to come to an end and this period of 36 years would seem to me about the right time for my service in the Senate to end,” he said in September 1995

He is survived by wife Nuala O’Donnell and three of their four children.

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