Christopher Edley Jr., former interim dean, passes away at age 71

Berkeley School of Education Dean Michelle D. Young issued the following statement on the passing of Christopher Edley Jr., BSE's interim dean from 2021 to 2023. 

It is with a sad heart that I share that we have lost a staunch champion of education. Professor Christopher Edley, Jr., who was my predecessor as the Berkeley School of Education’s interim dean from 2021 to 2023, passed away May 10, 2024.

Chris, who served nine years as the dean of Berkeley Law (read their story here), stepped into the role of interim dean at Berkeley School of Education at the request of Chancellor Carol Christ. A Harvard-trained lawyer and law professor, Chris had dedicated much of his career and expertise to education policy.

At the time of his appointment, he said: “This opportunity to serve is an unexpected privilege. Teaching is the most important profession, and there is no more important component of the opportunity agenda than improving educational excellence and equity from early childhood to lifelong learning.”

Indeed, it was our privilege to have Chris guide the school through what was arguably one of the most difficult periods in our world’s history: the height of the Covid pandemic. It was a time when the pandemic laid bare deep inequities in every sector, including health care, law enforcement, jobs, housing, and education.

Chris encouraged the School of Education community to embrace the mantra, “Educate like democracy depends on it.” He was eager to put the catchphrase on a t-shirt and said he would personalize it with the added words “… because it does.”

This was classic Chris. Never one to shy away from sharing his opinion and expertise, he often spoke about what brought him joy was working to influence federal education and civil rights policy. And his influence was considerable.

Chris served in White House policy and budget positions under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and chaired President Barack Obama’s transition team. Chris also held senior positions in five presidential campaigns: policy director for Michael Dukakis (1988); and senior policy adviser for Al Gore (2000), Howard Dean (2004), Barack Obama (2008), and Hillary Clinton (2016).

Chris founded the Harvard Civil Rights Project and served on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Under President Clinton, he chaired the 1998 Affirmative Action Review. Among his books are “Not All Black and White: Affirmative Action, Race, and American Values” (Hill & Wang, 1996).

Chris and his wife Maria Echaveste, former deputy chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, founded The Opportunity Institute, which seeks to increase social and economic mobility and advance racial equity through partnership and collaboration with those seeking to promote systems change.

While Chris served as interim dean, our undergraduate major in education was formalized and the school officially became Berkeley School of Education. Chris championed initiatives to expand online education, bolster early childhood education, and support the school’s groundbreaking statewide effort for equity-based school leadership. For more insights regarding his many substantive contributions, I encourage you to read the obituary published in The Los Angeles Times.

Chris has left an indelible mark on the nation’s civil rights dialogue, the Berkeley School of Education, and most certainly on our hearts.

Christopher Edley Junior smiling at camera wearing a blue button up top

Christopher Edley Jr., the Honorable William H. Orrick Jr. Distinguished Professor at Berkeley Law, served as interim BSE dean from 2021 to 2023.

Fellow or member of:

  • American Academy of Arts & Sciences
  • National Academy of Public Administration
  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • American Law Institute
  • Hamilton Project, the Brookings Institution, Advisory Council
  • Inequality Media, Board of Directors

Other activities:

  • National Associate of the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academies of Sciences, for which he chaired a committee to evaluate NAEP performance standards, and a committee to design a national system of education equity indicators. See Edley on Education below.
  • Harvard Civil Rights Project, co-founder
  • The Opportunity Institute, co-founder, president emeritus, senior fellow
  • Congressional appointment to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1999-2005)


  • Bachelor of Arts, Mathematics, Swarthmore College
  • Master of Arts, Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Juris Doctor, Harvard Law School