Jill Biden Preaches Importance of Education Accessibility at Founders’ Dinner

Mary Norkol | The PhoenixJill Biden addressed Loyola students about the importance of higher education at the annual Founders' Dinner Wednesday.

Former second lady Jill Biden had students and staff laughing with her by the end of her appearance at Loyola’s annual Founders’ Dinner event Wednesday in Kasbeer Hall on Loyola’s Water Tower Campus.

The Founders’ Dinner aims to raise scholarship funds for Loyola students, according to Dean of Students Will Rodriguez, who introduced Biden.

Around 75 to 100 students attended this year’s event, organizer Kaitlin Butler said. Rodriguez said students were selected by the dean of their school to attend the invitation-only event.

Biden was interviewed by Loyola alumnus and acclaimed journalist Bill Plante (class of 1959) about her life during the Obama-Biden administration and her thoughts on the state of education today. Biden, a community college English professor, emphasized the importance of higher education no matter the institution; she touched on removing the stigma behind attending community colleges before gaining a four-year degree.

“I’m not naive, I know there’s a stigma like ‘You couldn’t get in anywhere else,’” Biden said while addressing the crowd. “But to me [community colleges are] the greatest places of learning because they’re so nurturing.”

Aligning with her commitment to community colleges, Biden met with students from Arrupe College — Loyola’s two-year Jesuit college — Wednesday morning before the event. She said she was “amazed.”

“I wish there were Arrupe Colleges all over America,” Biden said about her experience.

At the event, students in attendance laughed and nodded their heads in agreement with Biden’s points about college debt. Biden said her three children went through undergraduate and graduate school while she was a community college professor and former Vice President Joe Biden was in the Senate.

“To us, it was absolutely worth it,” Biden said.

Biden spoke about more than just education. After asking about what makes a good educator — to which Biden responded “heart” — Plante asked about some of Biden’s favorite people. Biden redirected the question to the audience, asking students who they would like to meet, given the choice of anyone in the world.

Students responded with four answers: Leonardo DiCaprio, Oprah, Beyonce and Jimmy Kimmel. Biden said she’s met all of them. But they weren’t who she had in mind when Plante asked.

“You want to know who’s really fabulous? Bono,” Biden said. “It’s because of how much he gives back.”

She also said she admires Prince Harry’s commitment to military families, something she said she’s committed herself to for a long time.

Rodriguez said Biden’s talk was personally impactful because he attended a two-year college known at the time as Felician College, now Felician University.

“I was personally very inspired,” Rodriguez said. “I always say I wouldn’t be here without my experience at a two-year college.”

Some students at the event, like student government president Anusha Mannam, echoed Rodriguez’s thoughts about inspiration. Mannam said the event was important not only for Loyola students, but students at Arrupe College as well.

“It’s a great opportunity because not many students are able to attend the Founders’ Dinner,” Mannam said. “So it’s a great opportunity for us and Arrupe.”

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