BY B.J. ALMOND
Rice News staff
Khan Academy founder Salman Khan, who has produced more than 2,600 videos online to educate people all around the world for free, will present the commencement address at Rice University’s 99th graduation ceremony May 12, 2012.
“Our students have made an excellent choice for the speaker at this year’s commencement ceremony,” said President David Leebron. “Salman Khan is leading innovation and possibility at the intersection of technology and education. Most importantly, he stands as an example of the difference that one person can make in improving the lives of others. I have no doubt he will inspire our graduating students and their families next spring.”
Khan, who has degrees in mathematics, electrical engineering and computer science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MBA from Harvard Business School, quit his job as a hedge fund analyst in 2009 to run the nonprofit Khan Academy full time.
A free online education platform, the academy stemmed from Khan’s use of a notepad on the Internet to tutor a cousin in mathematics in 2004. In 2006 he began posting the tutorials on YouTube so that other family members and friends could access them. As the videos grew in popularity, Khan expanded the subject matter from mathematics to advanced calculus, physics, chemistry, biology and other disciplines. The videos have averaged more than 20,000 views each.
The Khan Academy identifies its goal as “changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.” With a library of videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and more than 200 practice exercises, the academy states on its website that “we’re on a mission to help you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace.”
Khan was invited to give a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talk this past March. Discussing his use of video to reinvent education, Khan called for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom practice by assigning students to watch his video lectures at home so they could do the hands-on homework in the classroom with the teacher available to help.
In 2009 the Khan Academy received the Microsoft Tech Award for education. A year later, Google provided $2 million for the creation of more courses and for the translation of the academy’s core library into the world’s most widely spoken languages.
Born and raised in New Orleans to immigrant parents from Barisal, Bangladesh, and Calcutta, India, Khan achieved a perfect score on the math portion of his SAT exam and was valedictorian of his high school class. He has appeared on Fortune Magazine’s “40 Under 40” list of business’s hottest rising stars and was recently listed at No. 7 on Fast Company’s list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business.
Rob Griffin, faculty adviser for the Commencement Speaker Committee, said Khan was the ideal candidate for Rice’s speaker. “The students on the committee focused on finding a speaker who displays excellent speaking skills, possesses an entrepreneurial spirit and provides a positive example of how to make a real difference in the world,” said Griffin, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “They also wanted someone whose trajectory was rising rapidly. In these regards, Salman Khan is the perfect fit.”
Committee members included Griffin; graduate students Corinne Allen and Creston Herron; undergraduates Coco Owens, Fahad Punjwani, Kaleb Underwood and Adrianne Waddell; and advisers Matt Taylor, associate vice provost and associate dean of undergraduates; Lauren Linn, assistant director of university events; and David Vassar, senior assistant to the president.