No Sheepskin? No Problem.
Need a fancy degree to work at the White House? Not necessarily.
It's true that President Obama and his team have plenty of diplomas from elite schools. According to a study by New York University's Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, in cooperation with The Post, three-fourths of the president's senior staffers boast law degrees, MBAs or PhDs, on top of undergraduate degrees, of course.
Which makes Patrick Gaspard so interesting. The Reliable Source has learned that the director of the Office of Political Affairs is the only top staffer who didn't graduate from college. Nonetheless, he landed one of the most important jobs in the White House.
"He earned it the old-fashioned way, in the muck of street-level politics," said Paul C. Light, an NYU professor of public service. It's not unprecedented to have someone in a presidential administration without a college degree, said Light, but very rare at this level. Gaspard, at just 41 years old, has Karl Rove's old job. (Rove never graduated either. Hmm, maybe you just can't teach this stuff.)
Born in Haiti, the community organizer attended Columbia University's School of General Studies, an undergrad program designed for older, nontraditional students; he studied from fall 1994 to spring 1997 but was not awarded a degree. By that time, he was already in the thick of New York City politics: He worked on Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential bid and Mayor David Dinkins's campaign, then went on to lead the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers, one of the largest unions in the country.
"I've always been involved in organizing -- on issues and in elections," Gaspard said yesterday in an e-mail. " ... Heroes like Peter Jennings and César Chávez suggested to me that there were alternate paths to the pursuit of knowledge while leading a life with focused urgency and action."
Obama lured him away from the union for his presidential campaign, and the two clicked. Ever worry about all those other overachievers from the Ivy League? "I haven't given much thought to the distinctions," Gaspard told us.
Clearly, the president isn't a diploma snob. David Plouffe, who managed Obama's historic presidential campaign, dropped out of the University of Delaware -- but became an expert at beer pong and, eventually, politics. Plouffe opted out of a White House job but just landed a seven-figure book deal. So all you moms out there, relax.
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