Dr. Jill Biden, a WCU alumna and wife of democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., granted The Quad an exclusive interview following a rally in Scranton, Pa., last week.Dr. Biden received a Master of Reading from West Chester University in 1981. She said her time at West Chester University helped her understand what her current students go through.
“I was doing what my students do everyday,” Dr. Biden said. “I understand their frustrations.”
Added to the stress of her studies was the fact that she was pregnant with her only daughter Ashley while she attended West Chester University.
Dr. Biden continued her scholastic career, while raising her family, and obtained another masters degree from Villanova University in 1987. In January 2007, she earned a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware. Her dissertation focused on community college enrollment retention.
When she passed the driveway to her home, she saw two signs in her driveway placed by her husband. They read, “Congratulations Dr. Jacobs-Biden” and “Dr. and Senator Biden live here.”
Currently, Biden teaches in the English Department at Delaware Technical and Community College. Previous to her employment with DTCC, she worked in public schools for 13 years as an English teacher and reading specialist. She also worked part-time with Rockford Psychiatric Hospital Adolescent Program.
Dr. Biden said if someone told her she would have a shot at the White House she would have her doubts.
“I don’t think I would have believed it,” she said. “I’m not really political.”
Politics aside, she still embarks on many matters of policy. As a U.S. Senator’s wife, she has started many programs dealing with education and healthcare.
Dr. Biden started the Book Buddies program over the summer to get children reading at age four. Book Buddies raises money for low-income children who cannot afford to purchase books or other reading materials.
She also started the Biden Breast Health Initiative aimed at educating high school-aged women of proper breast health.
For much of the last two decades, Dr. Biden did not stress Sen. Biden to seek higher office, but said she stressed her husband to run for president in 2004 despite her submissive political nature because the country needed his leadership. She was especially in disbelief after the 2004 presidential election.
“I was so disillusioned,” she said. “I didn’t know anybody who voted for [President Bush].”
Sen. Biden campaigned for the democratic presidential nomination, but withdrew from the race in early January after a poor showing in Iowa’s caucus. However his road to the White House did not end then.
Dr. Biden clearly remembers when she heard the news. She was at a fundraising event for military troops and her husband called to say that Sen. Obama called. The close-knit Delaware family had a family meeting and accepted Obama’s offer for vice-president.
“Joe has always been passionate about the issues,” Biden said of her husband. “Barack and Joe make such a great team.”
Dr. Biden, despite her not being naturally political said campaigning is exciting even though she still teaches four days a week at DTCC. She said going from teaching to campaigning is difficult, but her being a little tired is worth it if it effects change.
“I’m in two different worlds: after school, I get in a plane and go all over the country,” Dr. Biden said. “I truly, truly believe in this.”
Frank Stern is a fourth-year English major with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at quadEIC@wcupa.edu