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Alumnus Peter Groff to spearhead faith-based initiatives in Obama administration

Peter Groff’s (JD ’92) final days as president of the Colorado Senate were spent working on a flurry of last-minute bills and preparing for his move to Washington, D.C. At the same time, the executive director of DU’s Center for New Politics and Policy — formerly the Center for African American Policy — also wrapped up his teaching commitments in the University’s Institute for Public Policy Studies.

Peter Groff is leaving DU and the Colorado Senate for a position in the U.S. Department of Education. Photo by: David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Peter Groff is leaving DU and the Colorado Senate for a position in the U.S. Department of Education. Photo by: David Zalubowski/Associated Press

On April 10, President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan appointed Groff director of faith-based and community initiatives in the U.S. Department of Education. He began work on May 11, just five days after the end of the annual four-month gathering of state legislators.

“I came to DU 12 years ago not really knowing what Chancellor [Dan] Ritchie had in mind, but the center really evolved over time,” says Groff. “I’ll really miss the classroom because I enjoyed the interaction with students.”

The center’s evolution included the launch of the Web site. In addition, Groff and center co-director Charles Ellison — who is based in Washington, D.C. — began the Groff/Ellison Political Report. The two also collaborate on a political radio series on Sirius/XM satellite radio.

“Peter has done tremendously innovative work at the center,” says DU Provost Gregg Kvistad. “The political report, the radio show, the mobilization of young voters around policy issues at both the Democratic and Republican national conventions last year, and Peter’s teaching in our public policy program have contributed enormously to the University of Denver and the national political dialogue.”

DU’s Center for New Politics and Policy will be suspended until Groff returns from Washington, although he readily admits he doesn’t know when that will be. “I’ll be there at least three and a half years,” says Groff, noting that the timing coincides with the end of the president’s first term.

In the Department of Education, Groff will help empower faith-based and community groups, enlisting them in support of the department’s mission to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence.

His work with the department began in late April when he began participating in daily conference calls with officials in the nation’s capital. Groff moved to Washington immediately after the state legislature ended its work. His wife and two children will follow during the summer.

Groff was appointed Colorado’s sixth African-American state senator in February 2003 and was elected to a full term in November 2004. In January 2005, he was elected the body’s first African-American president pro tem; he was the third African-American in the nation’s history to hold the post of state Senate president. Groff began his career in state politics after being elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 2000.


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