Gaston Caperton is the former president of the College Board and a former two-term Governor of West Virginia.
A native of Charleston, West Virginia, Governor Caperton attended the University of North Carolina, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in business. After college, Caperton returned to home to join the family business. Under his leadership, the McDonough-Caperton Insurance Group became the 10th-largest privately owned insurance brokerage firm in the United States.
After a successful business career in finance and insurance, he was elected Governor in 1988 and quickly revolutionized West Virginia’s education system. During the eight years of his administration, average teacher salary went from 49th in the nation to 31st, he launched one of the country’s earliest and most comprehensive basic skills computer initiatives and he invested more than $800 million into building, modernizing and improving school facilities throughout the state. Governor Caperton’s focus on investing in the future paid off, adding 86,900 jobs between 1989 and 1997, lowering the unemployment rate to its lowest level in 17 years and increasing total investment by new and expanded businesses by more than $3.9 billion. After leaving office in 1997, Governor Caperton spent two years teaching at Harvard and Columbia Universities before becoming the eighth president of the College Board in 1999. As president, he helped transform the century-old institution into a mission-driven, student-first operation promoting college success and opportunity for all Americans. During his 13 years of leadership, the College Board touched the lives of students in nearly 27,000 high schools and colleges, promoted the importance of writing by adding a writing section to the SAT and doubled the number of students succeeding in Advanced Placement.
Governor Caperton’s leadership also renewed the organization’s focus on education in a globalized marketplace. He initiated a new series of AP world language and culture courses and embarked on an historic education exchange program with the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) in China. Known as the Chinese Language and Culture Initiative, the program is supporting the growth of Chinese-language education in U.S. schools and building a solid foundation for the AP Chinese Language and Culture course. The initiative also sends Chinese teachers to U.S. schools for one to three years and sends delegations of U.S. educators to China to learn about its education system and culture. He retired from the College Board in 2012.
In over more than 20 years in government and education, Governor Caperton has received ten honorary doctoral degrees and been presented with numerous awards, including the 2007 James Bryant Conant Award for his significant contributions to the quality of education in the United States and the 1996 Computerworld Smithsonian Award for his tireless efforts to introduce technology into the classroom. Most recently, he was honored as the 2012 Policy Maker of the Year by the National Association of School Boards of Education.