Mick Zais

Mitchell McGeever "Mick" Zais (born December 10, 1946) is an American politician who is currently serving as the United States Deputy Secretary of Education.[1] He previously served as the 17th South Carolina Superintendent of Education from 2011 to 2015. Before winning the election as superintendent, he served as President of Newberry College for ten years.[2] Prior to that he reached the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Army.

Mick Zais
United States Deputy Secretary of Education
Assumed office
May 17, 2018
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byJim Shelton
17th South Carolina Superintendent of Education
In office
January 12, 2011  January 13, 2015
GovernorNikki Haley
Preceded byJim Rex
Succeeded byMolly Spearman
President of Newberry College
In office
Preceded byJohn Hudgens
Succeeded byV. Scott Koerwer
Personal details
Mitchell McGeever Zais

(1946-12-10) December 10, 1946
Political partyRepublican
EducationUnited States Military Academy (BS)
School of Advanced Military Studies (MA)
University of Washington (MS, PhD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
RankBrigadier General

Education background

Zais earned a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from West Point, a Master of Science and a doctorate in social psychology and organizational behavior both from the University of Washington and a Master of Arts in military history from the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Military career

During his military career, Zais served in a wide variety of infantry units in Vietnam, the United States, and Korea. He commanded two rifle companies, an infantry battalion, a light infantry brigade, and served as deputy commanding general at Fort Riley, Kansas. Zais was also the Pentagon's Chief of War Plans. As an assistant professor at West Point for three years, he taught organizational behavior, leadership, and management consulting.

Zais served as a White House aide and in Panama as executive assistant to the four-star commander of all U.S. forces in Central and South America. In Kuwait, he was commanding general of U.S. and Allied forces. He also served as commanding general of Operation Provide Refuge, the task force that cared for 4,000 Kosovo refugees who entered the United States. Zais' last military assignment was as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Reserve Command, the headquarters that administers the 184,000 part-time Reservists, 9,000 civilian employees, and 11,000 full-time military members of the Army Reserve. At the time of his retirement from the military Zais held the rank of Brigadier General.[3]

Zais' military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal; the Defense Superior Service Medal; the Legion of Merit; the Bronze Star; the Meritorious Service Medal; the Air Medal; the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal; the Humanitarian Service Medal; the Ranger, Airborne, and Combat Infantryman's Badges; and the South Carolina Meritorious Service Medal.

Newberry College

Zais became the president of Newberry College in August 2000. During his time at Newberry, both enrollment and endowment nearly doubled. The college added forensic chemistry and nursing to the academic curriculum. During the last three years of his tenure, Newberry College was named by U.S. News and World Report as one of America's best colleges.[4] He retired in June 2010, just prior to running for state Superintendent of Education.[5]

South Carolina Superintendent of Education

2010 election

Zais ran in a crowded field for the Republican nomination. Zais was the top vote getter in the primary but did not clear the necessary 50% threshold. Zais defeated Elizabeth Moffly in the run-off. He faced Democrat Frank Holleman, Libertarian Tim Moultrie and two minor party candidates in the November general election. Zais won with 51% of the vote.[6][7]

Tenure and retirement

Zais opposed implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in South Carolina and withdrew from the state's participation in the federal Race to the Top grant competition. Zais supported the state's Governor to have the power to appoint the State Superintendent of Education, a position shared by a former Democratic Superintendent as well as his successor in the position.[8][9] By the end of Zais' tenure, South Carolina's on-time high school graduation rates hit an all-time high of over 80% of students finishing within four-years.[10] Zais decided not to run for re-election and endorsed Sally Atwater, widow of Lee Atwater, as his replacement. In the 2014 election, Republican educator and former legislator, Molly Mitchell Spearman, won by a wide margin and currently serves as South Carolina's next State Superintendent of Education.[11]

Deputy Secretary of Education

On October 5, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Zais to serve as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education.[12] He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 50–48 on May 16, 2018.[13]


Zais has a daughter, Ashley, who was Miss South Carolina USA in 2007.[14]


  1. "PN1397 — Mitchell Zais — Department of Education". U.S. Congress. October 5, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  2. "State Superintendent Of Education Mick Zais". South Carolina Department Of Education. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  3. article on Zais from The Citadel
  4. "Mick Zais". The Washington Post. May 30, 2013. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  5. "2009–2010 Bill 5090: Dr. Michael M. Zais". South Carolina Legislature Online. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  6. "Republican Mick Zais Takes Victory in Race for State Superintendent of Education in South Carolina". WSPA. October 23, 2013. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  7. "Mick Zais". Ballotpedia. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  8. "Editorial: Let governor appoint education superintendent". Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  9. "Haley, Spearman call for appointed schools chief". Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  10. "South Carolina's on-time, high school graduation rate at all-time high". Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 8, 2014. Retrieved December 8, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/10/05/sixteen-nominations-sent-senate-today
  13. "On the Nomination (Confirmation Mitchell Zais, of South Carolina, to be Deputy Secretary of Education )". United States Senate. May 16, 2018. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  14. Martin, Jonathan (April 21, 2008). "McCain camp hires beauty queen". Politico. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
Political offices
Preceded by
Jim Rex
South Carolina Superintendent of Education
Succeeded by
Molly Spearman
Preceded by
Jim Shelton
United States Deputy Secretary of Education
Party political offices
Preceded by
Karen Floyd
Republican nominee for South Carolina Superintendent of Education
Succeeded by
Molly Spearman
Academic offices
Preceded by
John Hudgens
President of Newberry College
Succeeded by
V. Scott Koerwer
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