Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Chester E. Finn, Jr., scholar, educator and public servant, has devoted his career to improving education in the United States. He is the Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He is also a Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
Finn served as Fordham’s President from 1997 to 2014, after many earlier roles in education, academe and government. From 1999 until 2002, he was John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and previously at Hudson Institute. In 1992-94, he served as founding partner and senior scholar with the Edison Project. He was Professor of Education and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University from 1981 until 2002. From 1985 to 1988, he served as Assistant Secretary for Research and Improvement & Counselor to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. Earlier positions include Staff Assistant to the President of the United States; Special Assistant to the Governor of Massachusetts; Counsel to the U.S. Ambassador to India; Research Associate at the Brookings Institution; and Legislative Director for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
For 40+ years, Finn has been in the forefront of the national debate about school reform. His participation in seminars, conferences, and hearings has taken him to colleges, education and civic groups, and government organizations throughout the world.
A native of Ohio, he holds an undergraduate degree in U.S. history, a master’s degree in social studies teaching, and a doctorate in education policy, all from Harvard University.
Finn has served on numerous boards, currently including the Maryland State Board of Education, the National Council on Teacher Quality, and the Core Knowledge Foundation.
Author of over 20 books, Finn’s most recent (co-authored with Brandon L. Wright) is Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students, published in 2015. Earlier works include Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools (co-authored with Jessica Hockett); Ohio’s Education Reform Challenges: Lessons from the Frontlines (co-authored with Terry Ryan and Michael Lafferty); Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik; Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut; Leaving No Child Behind: Options for Kids in Failing Schools (co-edited with Frederick M. Hess); Charter Schools in Action: Renewing Public Education (co-authored with Bruno V. Manno and Gregg Vanourek); and The Educated Child: A Parent’s Guide from Pre-School Through Eighth Grade (co-authored with William J. Bennett and John Cribb).
A speaker and moderator at myriad events and frequent commentator in the national media, he has also penned more than 400 articles in such publications as The Weekly Standard, National Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, The Public Interest, Washington Post, New York Times, Education Week, Chronicle of Higher Education, Harvard Business Review, TheAtlantic.Com, NationalReview.com, Education Next, and The Columbus Dispatch. He also writes regularly for the Fordham Institute’s weekly Education Gadfly.
He and his wife, Renu Virmani, a physician, have two grown children and three adorable granddaughters. They live in Chevy Chase, Maryland.