John B. King, Jr. is the 15th Chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY), the largest comprehensive system of public higher education in the United States. Prior to his appointment as Chancellor, King served as president of The Education Trust, a national civil rights nonprofit which seeks to identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps for students from preschool through college.
Chancellor King also served in President Barack Obama’s cabinet as the 10th U.S. Secretary of Education. Upon tapping him to lead the U.S. Department of Education, President Obama called King “an exceptionally talented educator,” citing his commitment to “preparing every child for success,” and his lifelong dedication to public education as a teacher, principal, and leader of schools and school systems. While serving in the cabinet, King worked to simplify the financial assistance process, oversaw federal investments in evidence-based strategies to increase college completion rates, and advocated for the president’s America’s College Promise proposal, which called for creating a federal-state partnership to make attendance at community colleges free and investing in scaled wrap-around services to support every student on their path to academic success.
Before his appointment as Secretary of Education, Chancellor King fulfilled the duties of Deputy Secretary of Education, overseeing all policies and programs related to P-12 education, English learners, special education, and innovation. In this role, King also oversaw the Department’s operations and cross-agency collaboration for President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, which worked to address opportunity gaps experienced by young men and boys of color.
His service in Washington, D.C. followed King’s tenure as New York State’s first African American and first Puerto Rican Education Commissioner, a role in which he oversaw all elementary and secondary schools, as well as public, independent, and proprietary colleges and universities, professional licensure, libraries, museums, and numerous other educational institutions.
A lifelong leader in public education, equity, and opportunity for all students, Chancellor King began his career in education as a high school social studies teacher in Puerto Rico and Boston, Massachusetts, as well as a middle school principal.
King’s life story is an extraordinary testament to the transformative power of education. Both of King’s parents were career New York City public school educators who serve as an enduring inspiration to him. By the time he was 12 years old, both of Chancellor King’s parents had passed away from illness. He credits New York City public school teachers — particularly educators at P.S. 276 in Canarsie and Mark Twain Junior High School in Coney Island — for saving his life by providing him with rich and engaging educational experiences, and by giving him hope for the future.
Chancellor King holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Harvard University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, as well as both a Master of Arts in the Teaching of Social Studies and a Doctorate in Education from Teachers College at Columbia University.
King serves as a member of several boards, including Harvard University’s Board of Overseers, The Robin Hood Foundation, the American Museum of Natural History, and MDRC. He previously taught as Professor of the Practice at the University of Maryland’s College of Education and served on several advisory boards, including former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative, the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement at the University of California, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and the National Advisory Council for the Prenatal-to-Three Policy Impact Center.
King is married to Melissa Steel King, an education researcher and former kindergarten and first-grade teacher, and is the proud father of two daughters, one of whom currently attends public high school and the other who attends college.