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Jerry Brown Secretary of State

14th Installment: Mike Kirst and Jerry Brown: Act 1

We focus on how these two leaders, Mike Kirst and Jerry Brown, forged their relationship over more than a half-century of policy advances, false starts, failures, and accomplishments.

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Stanford University Students and Bikes

13th Installment: The “Accidental Professor” Era Commences

Nine years after Mike had retired from serving as a professor at Stanford University and had transitioned to Emeritus status, Mike reflects on his nearly half-century-long professional career. From audio clips to a detailed account of his transition, you will learn about his move from Washington, DC to Stanford.

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12th Installment: “The Wendy Factor” Connecting Gardner to Kirst

Listen to rarely and never-before-heard interviews with Mike and his wife Wendy as well as related research and photos. This installment feature treats how the relationship between John Gardner and Mike Kirst developed and how a combination of circumstances, including Wendy’s role, in creating reforms that stick.

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GSE Centennial

Sneak Preview: How John Gardner Became “Kind of a Father Figure”

In this sneak preview, you’ll hear in this excerpt of an audio clip in which Mike reveals Wendy’s previously working for Gardner in D.C. and becoming friends with his wife Aida are what made the two couples “really gel.”

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11th Installment: “An ‘Uncommon American’ Influences on an ‘Uncommon Academic'”

The focus of this installment is on Mike’s relationship with John Gardner.

We explore Gardner’s influences on Mike from their work together in DC and even more profoundly over time. The next installment treats in more depth how that relationship developed and how a combination of circumstances, including Mike’s wife’s Wendy’s role, helped the two men carve a powerful personal path and significant mutual accomplishments.

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Sneak Preview of “The John Gardner Factor” in a “President-Elect Biden” Era

After reading the previous multimedia installment of the Mike Kirst Biography Project, John Fensterwald, Editor-At-Large of EdSource, California’s go-to publication for education news, emailed me saying: “Great stuff in your latest chapter. I had no idea about Mike’s relationship with John Gardner. I would have asked about that years ago. Congrats on eliciting all this good stuff.”

So the focus of the upcoming installment will be just that: Mike’s relationship with John Gardner!

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Mike and Wendy Kirst Portrait

Tenth Installment: Let’s Get Personal, “From Fraternity to Paternity”

Jim Kelly, founder and past CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and life-long friend of Mike Kirst who set up the first date with his wife Wendy, gave me this advice when starting this biography project: “You’ve gotta write about all [the] serious stuff, but make sure you don’t drift off into ‘do-gooder drivel’ and thus miss the ‘whole guy.’

So that’s the emphasis of this and the next “Let’s Get Personal” installments. This episode puts a spotlight on Mike’s early Dartmouth fraternity years, the start of his family, and his meeting and courting his wife Wendy. I think you’ll enjoy finding out a bit more about Mike, ‘the whole guy.”

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White House Fellows Mike Kirst President Lyndon Johnson Oval Office White House

Ninth Installment: A Young Dr. Michael Kirst Goes to Washington

In this installment, Mike reflects on his transition to and doctoral studies at Harvard, including receiving some bad advice from his college advisors but also making a key—and, as it turns out, long-term and multifaceted—connection with John W. Gardner, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, known as “one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes figures in education.” We’ll also hear how a very young Mike first met President Lyndon B. Johnson and served, like his mentor Mr. Gardner, as a behind-the-scenes advisor at the inception of still today the largest federal education program—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—as well as helped introduce the President to the woman who wrote Johnson’s best-selling biography.

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Who Controls Our Schools? Book Cover

Eighth Installment: Who Controls Our Schools? The Genesis

As the coronavirus pandemic has spread across the world,  federal, state, and local officials in the U.S.  are not only arguing over what to do but also over who has the authority to do it. As of the writing, in the spring of 2020, nearly all public and independent schools are closed in this country due to this global calamity. How and when American schools will reopen, and who will make that decision, are widely debated, prompting us to recall Mike’s most widely read book—Who Controls Our Schools?: American Values in Conflict.

In this installment, we explore how early in his studies, Mike began to formulate this question and eventually answer it in a way that demonstrates its complexities—which will help us to understand better the “Who’s in charge of American schools” question in this pandemic era.

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Glen Harvey, Chief Executive Officer, WestEd (San Francisco, CA)

"When Mike came to WestEd yesterday to discuss the math achievement gap in CA, I re-listened to Installment 3. Great stuff! Congratulations!"

An Uncommon Academic: How and Why

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About the Project

The purpose of this biography project is to make a fascinating man’s life and accomplishments come alive. Dr. Michael W. Kirst, while recognized in influential academic and policy circles, is generally unknown to those most actively engaged in American education in the trenches of the nation’s classrooms and local boardrooms, including teachers, principals, and school district leaders.

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About the Author

Dick Jung first met Dr. Michael W. Kirst four decades ago. Mike, then Professor in the Schools of Education and Business, was completing his first year as President of California’s State Board of Education. During Jerry Brown’s first term as Governor, as Mike tacked between Palo Alto and Sacramento, Dick served as the Teaching Assistant for Mike’s Stanford “Politics of Education” course.

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About the Team

Dick is supported by a project team of content, digital research, and online experts that includes a senior education policy reviewer, a digital archives manager, and a website and multimedia design coordinator.

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