Global literacy activist to speak at Fairfield University


Image: John WoodAuthor/philanthropist John Wood, who left a lucrative executive career at Microsoft to found an award-winning nonprofit building schools, libraries and vital opportunities for children around the world, will speak at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 12. His lecture, "Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy," is free and open to the public.

Wood's appearance is an Open VISIONS Forum-Espresso event, part of Fairfield's signature lecture series, in conjunction with The Inspired Writer Series, a program of the MFA in Creative Writing. The University's Study Abroad Program is also a contributor to Wood's appearance. Community partners for this event are the Fairfield University Bookstore and Fairfield Public Library.

In 1999, at the age of 35, Wood left behind his nine-year career as a marketing executive for Microsoft to found Room to Read, one of the fastest-growing charities founded during the 20th century. The statistics surrounding its success are staggering. To date, the nonprofit has opened more than 1,500 schools and 14,600 libraries and distributed more than 12 million books for an estimated six million children in 10 countries across Asia and Africa. It has also provided educational scholarships for more than 19,000 girls. Based in San Francisco, the organization has regional offices around the world and a goal of promoting education, gender equality and literacy worldwide. Wood is its board co-chair.

In addition to his work with Room to Read, Wood is a respected author. His latest book, "Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy," (Viking, 2012) details the makings of the nonprofit and dovetails on his first book, "Leaving Microsoft to Change the World." In the new book, he tells the stories of some of the children who've been helped through Room to Read, including youngsters in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, whose educational systems are still suffering the aftereffects of war; the Sri Lankan students whose schools and villages were swept away in the tsunami; and the Nepali children who had no books in a language they can read until Room to Read began publishing local-language titles - more than 700 of them.

In his latest book "Wood explains how he is achieving his goal of being 'one of many leaders of a global movement,' and he pays special tribute to Nelson Mandela's understanding of how encouraging 'a profound and deep love' for reading can be a transformative social force," according to Kirkus Reviews. "An absorbing personal account of a remarkable achievement."

Wood serves on the advisory board of the Clinton Global Initiative and he was the first-ever recipient of the Microsoft Alumni of the Year award bestowed by Bill and Melinda Gates. He is a five-time winner of Fast Company Magazine's Social Capitalist Award and a three-time speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative. He was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute. Barron's magazine has twice-named him as one of the world's 25 Most Effective Philanthropists. The San Francisco Chronicle described him as the "Andrew Carnegie of the developing world."

Wood teaches at the graduate level at the Wagner School of Public Policy at New York University and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His degrees include an M.S. in business administration from the University of Colorado, an MBA from the Kellogg School of Northwestern University and three honorary Ph.Ds.

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Media Contact: Meredith Guinness, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, mguinness@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 14, 2013

Vol. 45, No. 147