Jane Sanders

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Jane Sanders
Jane Sanders.jpg
4th President of Burlington College
In office
March 2004 – September 2011
Preceded byMary Clancy
Succeeded byChristine Plunkett
President of Goddard College
In office
Preceded byRichard Greene
Succeeded byBarbara Mossberg
Personal details
Mary Jane O'Meara

(1950-01-03) January 3, 1950 (age 70)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s)Dave Driscoll (divorced)
Bernie Sanders (m. 1988)
Children3, including Carina
Alma materGoddard College (BA)
Union Institute and University (MA, PhD)

Mary Jane O'Meara Sanders (born January 3, 1950) is an American social worker, college administrator, and political staffer. Sanders was provost and interim president of Goddard College (1996–1997) and president of Burlington College (2004–2011).[1][2] In June 2017, she founded the think tank The Sanders Institute.[3] She has been married to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders since 1988.

Education and personal life[edit]

Sanders was born Mary Jane O'Meara on January 3, 1950, and grew up in Brooklyn, as one of the five children of Bernadette Joan (Sheridan) and Benedict P. O'Meara.[4][5] She is of Irish descent and was raised Catholic.[6][2] She attended Catholic schools, including Saint Saviour High School, before attending the University of Tennessee. O'Meara dropped out of school and moved back to Brooklyn with her first husband, David Driscoll.[1] In 1975, they moved to Vermont when Driscoll's employer, IBM, transferred him. The couple divorced shortly after their arrival in Vermont and the birth of their son Dave. She has three children (Heather Titus,[7] Carina Driscoll,[8] and David Driscoll[9]) from her marriage with Driscoll.[10][11]

O'Meara finished her college degree at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, with a bachelor's in social work.[1] She met Bernie Sanders in 1981, ten days before his first campaign victory as Mayor of Burlington, and again at his victory party; the couple married in 1988.[1]

In 1996, she earned a doctorate in leadership studies in politics and education from Union Institute & University headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio.[1][12][13]


Early in her career Sanders worked in the Juvenile Division of the Burlington Police Department, and then as a community organizer with the King Street Area Youth Center, and as a volunteer for AmeriCorps VISTA.[1]

From 1981 to 1991, Sanders served as founding Director of the Mayor's Youth Office and Department Head in the City of Burlington. She was also active in K-12 education, elected as a School Board Commissioner, and was a founding member of the Women's Council & the Film Commission. In 1991, her husband, Bernie Sanders, was elected to the U.S. Congress. From 1991 to 1995, she worked in his office on a volunteer basis.[14]

In 1996, Sanders was appointed as Provost and Interim President of her alma mater, Goddard College, to help the college through a difficult period. The Board, faculty, staff, students and Sanders worked together to improve the accreditation, finances and governance of the institution.[14]

From 2004 through 2011, Sanders was President of Burlington College, a small liberal arts college founded in 1972 for non-traditional students. It closed due to financial problems in 2016.[15]

As senior partner in the Burlington-based consulting firm, Leadership Strategies, O'Meara worked as a political and educational consultant for federal, state, and local political campaigns.[16]

Sanders was instrumental in founding The Sanders Institute, a progressive think tank which launched in June 2017, and is one of its 11 original fellows. Like the other fellows, she does not receive payment for her work, although she does gain compensated for travel expenses.[3]

In 2018, she became a member of the Advisory Panel of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025.[17]

Adviser and aide to Bernie Sanders[edit]

Bernie Sanders has described his wife as "one of [his] key advisers",[2] and he has employed her at various times as "an administrative assistant, spokeswoman, policy adviser, chief of staff, and media buyer".[2] In a 1996 article in The Washington Post, she was credited with helping him draft "more than 50 pieces of legislation".[18]

She has served in Sanders's Congressional office as Chief of Staff and as Policy and Press Adviser,[16] and also serves as an Alternate Commissioner for the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission.[19][20]

Burlington College presidency[edit]

In 2004, Sanders was named President of Burlington College, a private, non-profit liberal arts school founded in 1972 in Vermont.[1][2] She increased the small college's fundraising.[21] During her tenure as President, Burlington had an endowment of "about $150,000",[2] and fundraising revenue had increased from about $25,000 when Sanders first arrived to $1.25 million by 2011.[21] In 2010, Sanders oversaw the purchase of property formerly owned and occupied by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. The College based the real estate purchase on projections that enrollment would rapidly grow from fewer than 200 to as many as 750 students, with a corresponding income increase from tuition fees.[22]

In 2011, the College's Board of Trustees, while crediting Sanders with acquiring a permanent campus for the 200‑student college, called a meeting for September 2011 and accepted Sanders's resignation. "We reached a decision which I believe is best for both the College and me," Sanders said after the meeting, "The board and I have different visions for the future and that’s perfectly fine."[2][21][23][24] On departure, she received the title of President Emeritus and a $200,000 severance, consisting of one year's pay, along with certain retirement and bonus payments.[25] With the College unable to collect on some promised pledges after Sanders had resigned, and the enrollment increase plans failing, the Diocese settled the loan debt with the College in 2015 for $996,000, less than the agreed amount, and with $1 million of the repayment made in shares of an unidentified LLC company.[26]

In 2016, Burlington College announced it was closing its doors effective May 27, 2016 due to "longstanding financial woes", in particular the "crushing weight of the debt" undertaken to buy the Diocese property.[12][27] After leaving the Burlington College Presidency, Sanders became a member of the Vermont Economic Development Authority.[28][29][30]

According to 2017 news reports, the FBI was looking into allegations of possible bank fraud in connection with a $10 million loan Sanders helped Burlington College obtain in 2010 to purchase 33 acres of land from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington.[31] The investigation was launched after complaints were filed with the FBI in 2016 by Brady Toensing, then-chair of the Vermont Republican Party and Vermont campaign manager for Donald Trump.[32][33] His complaints alleged she had misrepresented the college's donor levels and pledges in the loan application.[33] Bernie Sanders described the allegations by Trump's former campaign manager in Vermont as politically-motivated and "nonsense".[31] As of June 2017, Jane Sanders had retained counsel while the FBI investigated the matter.[31]

On November 13, 2018, the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont closed its investigation of the college land deal involving her and decided not to bring charges.[34]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Greenhouse, Emily (May 12, 2015). "Getting to Know Jane Sanders, Wife of Bernie". Bloomberg. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Felsenthal, Carol (October 9, 2015). "Jane O'Meara Sanders, future first lady?". The Hill. Washington, DC. ISSN 1521-1568. Archived from the original on October 22, 2015. She has been, her husband says, one of his key advisers ...
  3. ^ a b Hensch, Mark (June 7, 2017). "Jane Sanders starts group to boost 'progressive voices'". The Hill. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  4. ^ Belkin, Lisa (November 3, 2015). "Being married to Bernie". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on November 10, 2015.
  5. ^ "Obituaries: Bernadette O'Meara". The Free Lance–Star. May 6, 2015. OCLC 31810388. Archived from the original on March 12, 2016. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  6. ^ https://www.thejournal.ie/jane-sanders-interview-4256567-Sep2018/
  7. ^ Solsbak, Kayla. "Bernie Sanders' Stepchildren Are Leaders, Too". Bustle.
  8. ^ "Bernie Sanders Political Dynasty? Senator's Son, Stepdaughter Run For Office". NPR.org.
  9. ^ https://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/carina-driscoll-says-shell-run-for-burlington-mayor-her-way/Content?oid=11038297
  10. ^ "Bernie Sanders Fast Facts". CNN. May 27, 2015. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  11. ^ Belkin, Lisa (November 3, 2015). "Being Married to Bernie". Yahoo. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Graham, David (May 16, 2016). "What Killed Burlington College?". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  13. ^ Lindly, Beth (August 25, 2015). "Jane O'Meara Sanders, Bernie's Wife". Heavy.com. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  14. ^ a b Burlington Free Press; August 31, 1996, Just Jane: Activist Roots Pull Sanders Home to Goddard College"
  15. ^ Graham, David (May 16, 2016). "What Killed Burlington College?". The Atlantic.
  16. ^ a b Smith, Robert (October 2007). "Q&A: Jane Sanders, President of Burlington College". Vermont Business Magazine. Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility. 35 (12): 51. ISSN 0897-7925. Archived from the original on January 6, 2015. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  17. ^ https://diem25.org/bobby-gillespie-jane-sanders-and-george-bizos-become-advisers-to-diem25/
  18. ^ McCarthy, Colman (December 3, 1996). "A Marriage of Ideas and Service". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on January 19, 2016.
  19. ^ "About the Commission". Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  20. ^ "U.S. Individual Income Tax Return" (PDF). Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  21. ^ a b c Totten, Shay (September 21, 2001). "President in Peril". Seven Days. Burlington, Vermont. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015.
  22. ^ Tyson, Charlie (August 25, 2014). "$10 Million Gamble Buying a new campus sends Burlington College deep into debt. Can it survive?". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  23. ^ "President of Burlington College resigns Monday". Bennington Banner. September 26, 2011. Archived from the original on January 19, 2016.
  24. ^ Severns, Maggie (February 11, 2016). "What happened at Sanders U." Politico. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  25. ^ "In new ad, Sanders' nemesis Skip Vallee demands Jane Sanders return 'golden parachute'". VTDigger. September 17, 2014. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  26. ^ True, Morgan (August 23, 2015). "Catholic church takes loss in loan settlement with Burlington College". Vermont Business Magazine. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
  27. ^ Thomason, Andy (May 16, 2016). "Burlington College Will Close, Citing Longstanding Financial Woes". Chronicle. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  28. ^ Horowitz, Jason (December 28, 2015). "Jane Sanders Knows Politics, and How to Soften Husband's Image". The New York Times. p. A12. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on February 4, 2016. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  29. ^ Boberg, Shawn (July 10, 2017). "Federal prosecutors step up probe of land deal pushed by wife of Bernie Sanders". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  30. ^ Hartocollis, Anemona (July 10, 2017). "U.S. Is Investigating Jane Sanders Over Burlington College Bank Loan". The New York Times. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  31. ^ a b c Jaffe, Harry (June 22, 2017). "Jane Sanders Lawyers Up". Politico. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  32. ^ Group calls for fraud investigation into Jane Sanders' land deals; WCAX News; January 11, 2016
  33. ^ a b Olivia Beavers (2017). FBI investigating Jane Sanders for possible fraud: report TheHill.com, 05/07/17
  34. ^ News, AP (November 13, 2018). "Spokesman: No charges for Bernie Sanders' wife". AP News. Retrieved November 14, 2018.