Kilby Laureates Broadcast Hope
Interactive Program Brings Positive Message to Inner-City Students

by Robert Miller

The Dallas Morning News, Sunday, November 10, 2002

Jack St. Clair Kilby's invention of the microchip at Texas Instruments in 1958 changed the world, and now the Kilby International Awards Foundation wants to use Kilby Laureates to change the lives of inner-city students.

The foundation is using interactive video broadcasts to encourage students to stay in school and stir up their interest in science.

This project was initiated last year and expanded this year by the Dallas-based group founded by Victoria Downing in 1990 to honor Mr. Kilby.

Mr. Kilby received the Nobel Prize in physics in 2000.

Ms. Downing, chairwoman of the foundation, said the interactive video broadcast program is called "International Champions of Creativity" and uses the 50 Kilby Laureates as role models.

Kilby Laureates are individuals from around the world who have contributed to society through science, technology, innovation, invention and education.

Ms. Downing said she decided that although it was great to recognize the laureates for their contributions to society, they could add to those contributions by giving underserved high school students a message of hope.

The first such broadcast was last year and was delivered with the cooperation of Disney from the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. The target audience was 50 high school students, mostly seniors, from 40 schools in East Kentucky.

Jonathan Schlesinger, president of Connexus International of Dallas, has helped put on the program, and this year the target audience took a quantum jump. "Over a thousand Dallas-area students and several hundred more in other cities in Texas and California connected by video link," Ms. Downing said.

Mr. Schlesinger said of the effort: "No one in the country is doing what this group is doing in integrating the most advanced technologies, education and entertainment concepts, and pioneering their application to benefit students across the world by bringing the best minds to the young people who need them most."

The program originated last month from the auditorium of the Wyndham Anatole Hotel.

Enthusiastic response

Kilby Laureate Dr. Marc Hannah, co-founder of Silicon Graphics in California, flew here to interact in person with the students, while the other four participating members spoke from their home bases.

They included:

*Dr. Susan Athey, a brilliant young Kilby Laureate economist on the Stanford University faculty.

*Dr. Margaret Lowman, another laureate and a world-renowned rain forest botanist who is executive director of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Florida.

*Dr. Mark Reed, a Kilby Laureate, champion of the science of the future, nanotechnology, and a Yale University professor.

*Dr. Jaleh Daie, a Kilby International council member who is a former science liaison to the president's National Science and Technology Council. She is a managing partner of Aurora Equity LLC and former professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Participating students came from the Dallas Independent School District, many districts within Region 10, and students from the Learning Center at Foshay Middle School in south central Los Angeles.

"I gave a brief introduction of each speaker, and the laureates and the council member would give a brief report on their specialty and then invite the students to ask questions," said Ms. Downing, who moderated the program.

Ms. Downing said that enthusiasm of the speakers was contagious, and the hour and a half flew by. "They just mobbed Dr. Hannah when the program ended."

Motivating students

A not-so-hidden message, Ms. Downing said, is for the students to stay in school; the overall message is that anything is possible if you apply yourself. The response from the DISD, Mr. Kilby, Mr. Schlesinger and others was totally positive.

"Not only our students but our teachers found this program an exceptional experience, highly motivating and totally unique," said Suzee Olphint, executive director of advanced academics at DISD.

"We are looking forward to partnering with the Kilby Foundation for the 2003 series."

Dr. Sandy Maddox, a Region 10 executive, said: "The Kilby Broadcasts presented a rare opportunity for students across this region to hear and to interact with some of the most accomplished and delightful individuals any of us will ever meet, including Jack Kilby himself.

"We are proud to have been a part of this memorable production."

And Dr. Jerome Walker, associate provost of USC, also praised the effort. We "applaud the innovative use of technology to cross the digital and geographic divides to bring world-class role models to our students in a dynamic and enriching broad program.

"We are eager to provide opportunities for our students to participate in future broadcasts of this kind."

Mr. Kilby, enjoying the rapport between the students and speakers, said: "I know that they will never forget this experience."

Patrons of this year's series were American Airlines, Gamma Wealth Strategy & Research LLC, Hewlett-Packard, O'Donnell Foundation, DISD, Microtune, Texas Instruments, Southern Methodist University and Connexus.

Though planning has already started on the 2003 Kilby Foundation interactive video broadcasts, the scope of them will depend on funding available, Ms. Downing said.

"Those interested in participating as future patrons are invited to call the Kilby Foundation at 214-768-3355 or e-mail

Top of Page