By CBS3 Staff

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A graduate of a Philadelphia university has been nominated to President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet. Biden nominated La Salle University alumnus and veteran diplomat William Burns as his director of the Central Intelligence Agency on Monday.

Credit: President-elect Joe Biden Campaign

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“Bill Burns is an exemplary diplomat with decades of experience on the world stage keeping our people and our country safe and secure,” Biden said. “He shares my profound belief that intelligence must be apolitical and that the dedicated intelligence professionals serving our nation deserve our gratitude and respect. Ambassador Burns will bring the knowledge, judgment, and perspective we need to prevent and confront threats before they can reach our shores. The American people will sleep soundly with him as our next CIA Director.”

Burns is currently the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which is the oldest international affairs think tank in the United states.

He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2014 after a 33-year career. He’s served in a number of national security positions across five Democratic and Republican presidential administrations and is the second serving career diplomat in history to become Deputy Secretary of State.

When Burns retired from U.S. Foreign Service in 2014, La Salle University professors told the university’s website about Burns being the best student they ever.

“He was one of the best, if not the best student, I ever taught,” said John Rossi, who has taught history at La Salle for more than 40 years. “There was nothing he couldn’t do. His exams were letter perfect and brilliantly written. His handwriting was almost script, and beautifully done. And he was very unassuming. You wouldn’t notice this (in him) until your first exposure to his work.”

Rossi also said, on the first day of classes, Burns sat in the back of the room.

“I thought, ‘Who is this quiet guy who’s not saying a word?’ Then for a class discussion, I posed a question to him and he blew me away with his answer. It was so far beyond what you’d expect,” Rossi said.

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George Stow taught Burns in several history courses and says he is one of the “most accomplished students he ever taught.”

One of the first things Stow noticed about Burns was that he didn’t take notes. Despite the lack of note taking, Stow was blown away by his responses in the first blue book exam.

“I read his and he just knocked me out,” Stow said. “He had references to things I had said in lectures, but he’d done independent readings in the library. It was a very, very thorough, comprehensive and detailed essay.”


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