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Obama Cabinet May Include Penn State U. President

This story was written by Aubrey Whelan, Daily Collegian

"Prominent Democrats" have named Penn State President Graham Spanier a potential pick for President-elect Barack Obama's Secretary of Education, according to an early report by a Washington political journalist.

"When you talk to Democrats in Washington, they mention his name. He has a record of accomplishment that people here seem to respect," said Marc Ambinder, associate editor of The Atlantic, who wrote a post about Spanier's potential spot on an Obama shortlist for the position Tuesday on his blog.

Though Ambinder said he doesn't know "whether he's being vetted or not or what a vet would entail," he added Spanier is "absolutely in the mix."

Spanier, who is a registered Democrat, wrote in an e-mail Wednesday he was out of town, had not seen Ambinder's blog and does "not plan to comment on this speculation."

A transition official from the Obama transition team also declined to comment, adding the team does not discuss any appointments until they are made.

However, Ambinder said the fact Spanier did not comment could indicate that he is being considered for the position.

"If he wasn't a candidate, he would easily be able to say he wasn't a candidate. So not commenting is akin to saying, 'Yeah, I'm being considered,' " Ambinder said. "It'd be easy for him to rule this out, as many potential cabinet picks have done. The only reason why you wouldn't do that is you think you might be under consideration or consulting with the Obama team."

Ambinder said he does not know if Spanier is a front-runner for the position. He added he could not name his sources but said they were "Democrats prominent in education policy circles and in Democratic politics."

University spokespeople did not return calls for comment by press time.

Spanier said at a Nov. 21 Board of Trustees meeting the organization he headed for the past year, the Association of American Universities, has been involved in recommending candidates for positions in Obama's administration.

At the meeting, Spanier said the organization has made some recommendations but could not say who they were. The positions in question are "a broad array," including science and education positions, Spanier said.

Penn State trustee Keith Eckel said he was "totally unaware" Spanier could be in the mix for the position and declined to comment on "what would be speculation."

University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) President Gavin Keirans said he "didn't know much information" about Spanier's Washington prospects but added he would be qualified for the job.

"Him being a prominent university president, sitting on many national boards and chairing many national associations, I would think that he'd be qualified for that type of appointment," Keirans said.

Several representatives for Pennsylvania politicians said they were unfamiliar with the speculation surrounding Spanier.

"We haven't heard that, but certainly Graham Spanier is an education professional with an impeccable reputation and impressive resume," said Chuck Ardo, press secretary for Gov. Ed Rendell. "So, if the Obama folks turn to him as Secretary of Education, it would come as no surprise."

Though Rendell met with Obama and other governors in Philadelphia Tuesday to discuss economic issues, Ardo said it was unlikely he had spoken to Obama about Spanier.

"It is great that there's a Pennsylvanian in the mix for such an important cabinet position," said Rachel Magnuson, the communications director for U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa.

Abe Amoros, Class of 1990, the political and communications director for the Pennsylvania Democatic Party, said he didn't know anything about the potential consideration, but hopes "the rumor is true."

"He's progressive, forward-thinking, brilliant and would make, in my opinion, an excellent addition to the Obama administration," Amoros said.

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